Roatan Says ‘No Más’ to Crime
Mayor Presents Citizen Security Action Plan to Authorities

December 20th, 2012
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Rosa Danelia Hendrix, president of the Bay Islands Federation of Village Councils (Patronatos), tells judicial and law enforcement officials that people are "fed up" with crime.

Rosa Danelia Hendrix, president of the Bay Islands Federation of Village Councils (Patronatos), tells judicial and law enforcement officials that people are "fed up" with crime.

“We can’t put up with it anymore,” said Roatan Mayor Julio Galindo upon releasing the Roatan Citizen Security Action Plan to the press, public and Central Government authorities at a meeting at Plaza Mar December 18.

“We have a problem,” said the Mayor, noting that the US State Department had recently identified Roatan as a dangerous place to visit. “It’s the first time I know of that Roatan was on a warning list. For us to get off that blacklist is going to require the effort of everyone of us.”

Galindo first vetted the plan at an invitation-only meeting at Plaza Mar a week earlier, at which he bluntly told participants: “If we have another incident here, I think we’re finished.” That meeting followed the murders of two expatriate business owners within a two-week period in late November.

The plan calls for a number of measures in the short and medium term to improve island security, such as a 911 emergency number, a neighborhood watch system and more effective screening of visitors to the islands for criminal backgrounds. The Mayor also proposes to build a municipal dock and to more tightly monitor and regulate the arrival of cargo vessels, which have been used by criminals to arrive on and depart from the islands and avoid police detection.

Over the longer term, the plan calls for recruiting and training more island police officers (currently all National Police stationed on the Bay Islands come from the Mainland), creating a special investigation unit to be trained by international experts and, ultimately, to conclude an agreement with the Ministry of Security in Tegucigalpa under the Zolitur (Tourism Free Zone) framework under which the islands would take greater responsibility and authority for their own internal security (see Interview in the November Voice) .

“Roatan is a small place,” said Galindo, noting that “everybody knows” where certain things are happening and who is doing it. “We have to work together.”

The Mayor also advocated a carnet system for taxi drivers, tour guides and others working on the island, one of the requirements for which would be a criminal background check. This elicited a protest from some of the Central Government authorities present, as well as from Ricardo Montoya, president of the Roatan bar association (Colegio de Abogados), who pointed out that the Honduran Constitution guaranteed citizens the right to circulate within the national territory.

Bay Islands Governor Shawn Hyde retorted that, while he was proud to be a Honduran and recognized the right of law-abiding citizens to travel as they please, that right did not permit them to come and “make trouble in my house.”

The plan also contemplates preventive measures to expand economic opportunities for island youth, such as better job training and recreational facilities. At the same time, it calls for measures to prevent under-aged drug addicts from harassing tourists and committing crimes, something about which some West Bay participants complained at the December 18 meeting.

Galindo also said a jail needed to be built on Roatan to spare the cost of shipping detainees to the mainland and then back to Roatan for court appearances. He advocated more neighborhood patrols by police and better street lighting to deter crimes. But he said the severest current shortcoming was lack of investigative capability.

Judge Yimy Chirinos addressed the December 18 meeting on behalf of Central Government judicial and law enforcement authorities.

Judge Yimy Chirinos addressed the December 18 meeting on behalf of Central Government judicial and law enforcement authorities.

“Our investigative service on Roatan is very very poor,” he said, noting that his own office was broken into in November. He said there were fingerprints and footprints all over the Municipal building, but police could not identify the perpetrators.

But he stressed that crime is not just a problem of the police. It’s everyone’s problem.

“A tourist ain’t gonna come here if we have crime,” said Galindo. They don’t care if there’s a pothole in the road, but they’ll stay away if they don’t feel safe. And whereas in Colon on the mainland, if 10 people are killed they can still cultivate their African palm, he said, if crime scares away tourists from the Bay Islands, the economy will die. There will be no schools, no public health system without tourism revenue, said Galindo.

At press time the Mayor and his team planned to meet with Central Government judicial and law enforcement authorities on Roatan to discuss the plan in greater detail January 4.

(lea en español)

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Mayor Presents Citizen Security Action Plan to Authorities

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