Friday, July 19, 2024

Letter to the Editor: Letter to the editor: A plea to the police and customs officers


Dear Editor,

In just a few more weeks, the season of war games begins on Ambergris Caye. What I mean by that is the period from mid-November to mid-January when roving bands of children and teenagers take over the island and turn it into a simulated war zone. By war zone, I mean the constant sound of illegal fireworks filling the air from sunup to sometimes midnight, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day. This has been going unchecked for years, no matter how many complaints the -police department receives. Let us make one thing perfectly clear; fireworks are illegal in Belize – period. They may be legal in the country claiming us, Guatemala, but in independent Belize, they are illegal.

As to why I refer to the constant detonation of illegal fireworks as akin to a war zone is simple.  The US military started manufacturing M-80s in the early twentieth century to use in war games as a way to simulate the loud noises that explosions and artillery fire would sound like to the combatants in actual war. Regular firecrackers could be used to simulate small arm explosions such as gunshots. For years upon years, we have had to put up with the constant sounds of packs of fireworks being lit up, but for the last several years, the explosion of choice has become the M-80. These explosions go on for minutes at a time, hour after hour, and the citizens and residents have no recourse but to be held hostage by groups of disruptive minors because the police refuse to do anything about it. When you call, they say it’s not illegal. When you report it to the police command in Belmopan, they state categorically that it is illegal and apologize for the local officers’ lack of knowledge of the law, and give our local police force a call. Also, when you call our local station, they say it’s just kids having fun and they’re not hurting anyone. Yes, they are hurting every single person in the area who must listen to these loud explosions going off one after another, again, for hours at a time. I like to relax in my house, but these lawbreakers make that impossible for many reasons. And I will not get into how traumatizing these explosions are to pets and other wildlife. Also, six and ten-year-old’s playing with matches, lighting their explosives, and giggling as they toss them at each other is really no laughing matter. In the United States, where fireworks are illegal in most states, there were over 9,000 injuries in 2018 alone, with 62% occurring between June 22 through July 22. Most injuries were not serious, but some led to the loss of hearing, loss of fingers, and loss of hands. The last response from our police department was for the caller to talk to the parents — what a waste of time. If you do happen to recognize a child and go to their parents, they either tell you to mind your own business or tell you their child is doing nothing wrong. He’s just having harmless fun. Or it’s a tradition. I ask since when are illegal acts called or justified as a tradition?

There is a simple and quick way for the police to put an end to this illegal practice. It is obvious it is not hard to track down those responsible – just follow the booms. Confiscate the fireworks and take the child/children to their parents and explain that fireworks are illegal, and the next time the child is caught setting them off, he will be taken to jail. The parents will be called to come and get them and be fined for their child’s offense. Maybe if we make this the parents’ problem instead of everybody else’s, this will stop. The police constantly ask the public to help them with crime; to call them when we have information or to report a crime. What good does it do if we call, but our complaints go unanswered? I’m sure when the officers took their oath, it didn’t include “to protect and serve, but only when it’s convenient or when you feel like it.” Maybe we could even include the traffic officers in this initiative since they supervise around the school during recesses and drive around the rest of the day looking for traffic offenses. Maybe the teachers could give children the adult guidance they seem to be lacking at home and tell them what they are doing is illegal. Customs can also help to make everyone’s life easier also. The illegal fireworks are brought in from Guatemala. Confiscate them at the border! They are as illegal as the beer and liquor you confiscate at the Mexican border.

All people should have a reasonable right to expect peace and quiet in their own home. That is why we have nuisance and noise laws. How can you expect a bar owner to keep his music down at night when we allow children to turn our neighborhoods into a war zone during the day?

For those who get no response from calling our local police force (206-2022) about their noise complaints, I advise them to call the Belmopan command branch at 802-3722 and register their complaint.

/s/ heard enough
(name withheld by request)

P.S. Many, many tourists, also complain about this constant noise. I only include that information in the hopes that our Mayor and Area Representative will get involved in this issue because tourists are the only ones whose opinions seem to matter to them, except around election time, when they feign interest about the concerns and cares of the actual citizenry they are elected to serve.

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