In keeping with political promises by the new Roatan municipal administration, the island has seen a sudden increase in protective services and security directives. Military, National, and Municipal Police numbers are visibly higher at roadblocks and in public areas.
In a press conference on February 15, Roatan Mayor Julio Galindo, Diputado Romeo Silvestri, and National Bay Islands Police Chief Alcides Vides Castillo, held a press conference to issue security mandates with regards to hours of operation of billiard parlors, discos, and bars, promising strict enforcement of existing ordinances from 2005, among other parking and loitering issues. Plans were also announced to hold a press conference the first Thursday of each month focusing on public safety issues.
Motivated by security concerns, private citizens and residents formed The Crime Watch Committee which held its first meeting in September 2009. The group embarked on a fundraising campaign to contribute to the police and fire forces on the island, raising more than $75,000 in six months from local and foreign investors. In a ceremony on February 10, eight P71 Interceptor police edition Ford Crown Victorias, were donated to the Roatan police force. Minister of Security Oscar Alvarez spoke at the ceremony, pledging to give high priority to security on Roatan. Awards were given to Alvarez, Barron Dixon, Herb Morici, Brian McNeal, Ilias Scott, and Patrice Greer, for their efforts during the campaign.
All cars were purchased in Miami and cost roughly $4000, outfitted with modern equipment, including a Panasonic Toughbook computer and stand, light bars, traffic coordination lights, 100w Whelen sirens, and Hi-Power Motorola Spectra VHF radios. The existing Roatan police trucks are slated to be given to Santos Guardiola municipal for use on the unpaved roads common in the East End. In addition, funds were allocated for upgrading and repairing police station services in regards to plumbing, electrical, air conditioning, computers, and printers.
Radio systems have been a major focus in increasing island services, a complicated process due to Roatan’s mountainous landscape. Crime Watch team efforts have brought approximately 60% of the island under coverage. The main tower, installed at Brazil Hill above the airport connects portable radios from West End to Oak Ridge. Following field tests, filler repeaters will be installed to reach difficult areas. The intent of installing improved radio systems were so police could have direct communication with each other and with the fire department. According to Crime Watch reports, future plans are to connect with medical services as well. Also in the plans are directional links to Utila and Guanaja.
Modeled after Crimestoppers in the United States, the group formed the website, www.RoatanCrimeWatch.com, where citizens can submit crime reports, anonymous tips, crime prevention tips, and interface with the police. Discussions are underway to hire a bilingual dispatcher. Funds raised in the future will be appropriated for forensics equipment, riot gear, vehicle maintenance equipment, and radio repeaters, including surge suppressors and battery backup systems.
The fire brigade received major upgrades, as well. Approximately $2 million in equipment was donated by the International Fire Relief Mission (IFRM), which consisted of Self Contained Breathing Apparatus’ (SCBA’s), two-way radios, bunker gear, boots, and helmets. IFRM also sent a team of six firefighters from Broward County, FL, to the island to spend two weeks training local firefighters on methods of dealing with structure fires. IFRM also donated a rebuilt 1976 Orien Pumper from Connecticut, currently awaiting final customs clearance in Hybur Shipping. Fire Commissioner Leeland Woods, Brian McNeal, and Joe Peterkin helped to coordinate the effort. McNeal also worked with Ogden, NC, Volunteer Fire Department battalion chief, Gary Waters, to donate a 1993 Super Duty Ford F350 Mini-pumper. The vehicle arrived in June of 2009 from North Carolina. The department has also been linked into the new police radio system. [/private]