By Wellington C. Ramos
The first time I left my hometown Dangriga to travel to Belize City was when I became eleven years old. After my first trip I made several trips thereafter with businessman Ruben Carr. I always looked forward to being on the trips because I was attracted to the city due to the excitement and energy I saw in the people who lived there. In the year 1971, my older brother Henry Noralez, who was a police officer in the city, asked me to come and live with him. Without any hesitation, I took up the offer to join him. He was renting an apartment on the north side of Belize City in the Pickstock Division, which was at the corner of Douglas Jones and Cleghorn Streets.
Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and History
During those days, Belize City was the place to party and have fun at many night clubs, such as Continental, Happy Hour, Tavern, Bamboo Bay, Harbor Lights, Kitty Cat, Mingas, Double Barrel, Crossroads, Cheds, Melting Pot, Triangle Bar, most Lodge Halls and several other places. There were only two trouble spots on the north side and they were Pinks Alley and an area behind Smith’s Hotel on Pickstock Street. On the south side of Belize City there were areas like George and West Street area, Yabra area and the slaughter house area.
The Police Special Force known as PSF patrolled and conducted several raids in these areas to monitor the neighborhoods and crack down on marijuana smoking and gambling. Belize City was about working and looking forward to the weekends to go to the movies, football games, Birds Isle boxing and evening parties, christenings, weddings, club parties and other fun activities.
I started to work at the British Forces Airport Camp in 1972 up until April of 1973, when I entered the Belize Police Force. After six months of training, I graduated from the Police Training School in Ladyville village on the 19th October 1973 and was assigned to Patrol Branch. As a patrolman, I walked and patrolled the entire city of Belize, which was divided into Areas. Each political division was given an Area number and a police officer had to do foot patrols in those areas twenty-four hours a day. In addition to the foot patrols, the city had police booths in Yabra, Freetown and Matron Roberts area with a telephone to assist the police officers who had problems.
Every area also had an officer doing mobile patrol to make sure that the police officers were doing their foot patrols and to check on them if they needed any assistance. Police officers only had a whistle and a club as their support tools to protect themselves but the citizens were helpful and respectful to the police officers. Belize City residents were mostly law abiding citizens and had good moral, religious and cultural values. As time went by, the crime situation in Belize City got worse and now most Belizeans are ashamed, shocked, surprised and fed up with the current situation.
Most Belizeans, like other countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, are wondering what led to this drastic change in our societies. There are several reasons that we can point to but we must ask the same people who are involved in gangs and crimes what attracted them to that lifestyle to get the answers to these questions. Some people believe that these people choose this lifestyle and as such they must be dealt with harshly, while others believe that these people opted for that lifestyle because of the circumstances and situations they confront daily in the communities where they live. Despite their opposing views on what led to these people joining gangs and committing crimes, we all agree that these types of activities cannot continue to take place in our country and we must find a solution for it now.
The two most common crimes that are being committed in the country of Belize today are inflicting bodily harm to a person for no justifiable reason, which results in his or her death, called murder, and stealing. Theft is when a person takes something that does not belong to him or her without the consent of the owner. The taking of a human being’s life is the most serious crime a person can commit. Especially when the person who was killed did nothing to the person or persons who took his or her life. When you are being instructed to take another person’s life and you do not have a justifiable reason to carry out such action, one should think twice.
With gangs this is a common practice that leads to the taking of many innocent lives and this is frightening. As a former police officer and soldier, I had the opportunity to carry several types of weapons. I always prayed and hope that I would not have to take a person’s life unless that person is trying to take mine or other people’s lives that I am entrusted to protect. This is the most legally justifiable reason one can give to justify the taking of another human being’s life that is acceptable in most countries.
Currently, most crimes that are being committed in the country of Belize are in Belize City. All Belizeans need to be involved in getting this situation resolved because it will spread to the other districts in Belize. Belizeans have relatives scattered all over the country and when a relative commits a crime in Belize City, he or she will be running to another relative’s home in another district. However, if that person is wanted, they will be coming for him wherever he or she is and, if you are with him or her, you might become a victim likewise.
Plus, we do not know whether there are gangs in the other districts and who are the leaders of those gangs. Maybe recruiting is taking place now as we speak but eventually our youths might join them. Teaching our children religious, cultural and moral values will help. We can tell them about the value of a human life and the consequences for taking another human being’s life. Also about stealing and taking something that does not belong to them.
I remember when I was growing up my parents and the elders used to instill these cultural, religious and moral values in me. We will not be able to stop and eradicate some of the things that are occurring in our society today but this madness requires that we try any and everything to our disposal until we see progress.