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Belize: Concert blamed for spike in gang violence

June 26, 2024

BELMOPAN, Belize, CMC – Belize has imposed a state of emergency (SOE) for the second time within a six month period, for neighbourhoods on the north and south sides of Belize City, as the authorities attempt to deal with a spike in violent crimes by rival gangs.

Police Commissioner Chester Williams said that the police and members of the Belize Defense Force (BDF) are patrolling the areas, including the entire Jungle area, resulting in the detention of several people.

Williams said that the increase in gang-related shootings and murders could be linked to a recent concert.

“They had the concert, certain things took place at the concert and there was where everything started. It spilt over after the concert and then it permeates the city.  We now have to deal with the aftermath of that,” Williams told reporters.

He said the police have recovered a number of firearms and ammunition within the Belize District and the Cayo area.

“I must say that since we started our operations in the San Ignacio/Santa Elena area the team there has seized about four firearms and a number of ammunition.  So it goes to show the work that the police have been doing in those areas to be able to crack down on the issue of crime.”

Over the weekend, a gunman shot up the Roaring Creek police station situated in a small village in the Cayo District of Belize, just north-west of the capital, and Williams said law enforcement officials are searching for the individual.

“As I said, we know who he is but we have not been able to locate him.  We are hoping that pretty soon we will be able to do so.  We have gotten additional information, I will not divulge that to the media at this time, surrounding the entire incident.  And so, as soon as the investigation is at a level where we believe we can share certain things with you, then we’ll do so,” Williams said.

The authorities have also included two western communities, including Cotton Tree Village in the SOE, as a result of that incident.

Williams said that there are several people “who are originally from Roaring Creek, but they have moved over and taken up residence in Cotton Tree and those people are among the group of persons who are terrorizing that entire western corridor.

“They commit burglaries, robberies, shootings from Cotton Tree all the way to the border area, and so it is important for us to be able to capture those persons as part of the SOE”.

Police said that they have arrested and charged two men for murders they allegedly committed, including the murder of Stanley Moore on Sunday.

“We started our operations yesterday and we have been able to detain a number of persons who were wanted for murders. As you would see on our media blog we had shared with yesterday, the arrests of two individuals.

“One was arrested for the murder of Elwin Lewis which took place a couple of months ago.  That person had been on the run for a number of months and we were able to locate him yesterday.  And we also charged, I think, Marquis Conorquie for the murder of the guy Moore who was killed on Sunday during the day.

“So those two individuals were captured as part of this operation and we have also detained a number of other persons who the GI3 will be looking at for gang investigation and a number of persons who are wanted by C.I.B. for different investigations as well,” Williams said.

Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Shyne Barrow says the government has no solution to the escalating crime situation and has also called on the Police Commissioner to step down.

“You have the Commissioner of Police blaming music as the reason for the current state of emergency. It is music now. It is a concert. It is a DJ Trinidad. He’s the reason that people are killing people, please. This is the reason that Chester has to go.

“There has been a 45 per cent increase in the murder rate. We have 58 murders already, from January to June, whereas last year we had about 40 or maybe 45.  And so we have a significant increase in the murder rate.”

Barrow said that the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) has been saying for the last few years that Prime Minister John Briceno “needed to make adjustments in the Ministry of Police and we stay by that.

“We have been saying that Chester Williams has reached his expiration date. Milk tastes good, but after a certain date, it is useless. And we are seeing that with the Ministry of Police. They completely lack leadership. They lack leadership.

“The competence at the two most important positions, which is the ministry, the minister of police, and the commissioner of police. And what we see in Chester Williams is just a defense attorney for the Government of Belize. There is no accountability, there is no willingness to accept shortcomings, there is no willingness to work with stakeholders,” Barrow said in a statement.

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