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#387921 - 09/16/10 02:34 PM GOB announces witness protection program
Marty Offline

The Belize government has announced plans for a witness protection program. The decision to proceed with the initiative was announce this morning by Minister of Public Safety Douglas Sing during a press conference which was held at the Racoon Street police station. Minister Singh, told reporters that it was hoped that the scheme would entice more people to come forward with information on crimes. We’ll hear from the minister shortly; but first, the head of the Crimes Investigations Branch at Eastern Division Inspector Alden Dawson updated the media on the weekend murder spree that left four people dead including an eight year old girl who was killed as she slept in her bed on Sunday morning.

Inspector Alden Dawson; Crimes Investigations Branch, Eastern Division

“Since those incidents occurred Sunday morning we have canvassed the neighborhood of all four and have interviewed over eighty persons who we believe who have aided us with some useful information. We have detained and interviewed one person with respect to the murder of Eyannie Nunez and we are looking for a second person who we believe may be able to assist us in this investigation. We believe that the murder of Eyannie Nunez was caused over a firearm that is being held by a family member. According to information we received he refused to give back the fire arm which led to the shooting. We believe that the shooter or shooters believe that the family member was at home in that room. There is nothing indicate that Eyannie Nunez was the intended target in that shooting.”

The victims of the weekend murder rampage in Belize City are eight year old Eyannie Nunez, seventeen year old Marlon Zelaya, twenty five year old Everet Davis and sixty nine year old Apolonio Salome. Dawson says that police have not found any evidence that would leave them to believe that the four murders on Sunday are connected in any way.

Inspector Alden Dawson

“With respect to the murder of Mr. Davis we have detained three persons. We have interviewed them. We have impounded a small red car which we believe may have been the car used the shooter or shooters in that incident. As it relates to the Marlon Zelaya murder again we have interviewed several witnesses, we have taken statements and we are looking for one suspect with respect to that murder. In the case of Mr. Salome the progress of that investigation is a little slower than the others but we are making progress. We want to assure the public that the police have launched a full scale investigation into all four murders in all cases. No arrests have been made so far, however we intend to bring those responsible for those murders to justice swiftly especially in the case of little Eyannie. Again we are asking the publics support in achieving our goal to bring these suspects or these persons concerned to justice. I believe that there is no perfect crime and every crime committed in our streets there are witnesses. We are appealing to the public, to witnesses, to people who may have seen these incidents and again especially in the case of little Eyannie, we are asking them to come forward. Assist us so we can assist the public and bring these people to justice. We are prepared to protect these people. We offer whatever protection we need to keep these people these witness of witnesses safe.”

With the four murders on Sunday in Belize City, the number of homicides so far this year in the old capital stands at sixty three, which is twelve more than was committed in the same period years. Minister Doug Sing told reporters that he is aware that several witnesses have been targeted by criminals in the past. But he says a new initiative should make it easier for witnesses to volunteer information without being fearful.

Doug Sing; Minister of Police and Public Safety

“I am also aware that there are members of the public who may be witnesses to some of these crimes who are intimidated. Who feel threatened especially in light of rumors of what may have happened to some witnesses in the past. We have had some discussions for some time now with respect to a witness protection program. The commissioner indicated that over the last several years the police have engaged limitedly in witness protection with some level of success and some level of failure. We have been talking about this for some time and we are trying to put in place certain structures to allow this to work. This is not a new concept. There have been discussions regionally in particular within the Caribbean to establish a regional witness protection program. This is a problem for many Caribbean countries mainly because these countries are small and they don’t have the kind of resources to be able to do it within their environment. There has been dialog going on between the two countries. Unfortunately this has not progressed as fast as it should be and the situation in Belize has gotten really urgent for us to address this situation. In addition to this I spoke to the Guatemalan Ambassador about two months ago about the possibility of us engaging in a cross border agreement where they will assist us in protecting witnesses and perhaps we can do the same for people who may have that same problem. He has promised to look into the matter but once again these things don’t happen overnight and the situation in Belize now is desperate. We have decided to put in place a witness protection program. There is a telephone number that we have assigned to a specific officer. That telephone number is a mobile number which means that that officer will respond anytime that number is called and be able to meet with the witness and discuss the situation and evaluate the level of risk and make the appropriate steps, put the appropriate measures in place for the protection of the witness if it is necessary. That telephone number is 670-0026. We are going to promote this telephone number via ads so that people can be aware that this can be called. Now, I need to say at this stage that this is not a number that need be called by anyone. We have no problems if individuals want to use that number to provide additional information; tips or leads in context of certain cases but individuals who will be considered for witness protection will have to be individuals who have provided information that will lead to the conviction of individuals or who may have to testify in court and who therefore feel at risk. I have to say that clearly that it is not something that is everyone. There are strict guidelines that will be adhered to.”

Outside of the planed witness protection program, Minister Singh says other initiatives are being put in place to assist the police in making the community safer.  He estimates that in about six weeks time, some one hundred new officers will join the ranks of the police department.  When asked about the seemingly ineffective Operation Jaguar, both Minister Singh and Commissioner of Police say while it may have outlived its usefulness, the program continues and will be evaluated shortly. Recent statistics provided by officials at this morning’s press conference show that nationwide, there has been ninety three murders so far this year. That is twenty two more than was committee in the first nine months of the years in 2009. And if the trend continues we will certainly have a record year for homicides in Belize. On Tuesday evening, Opposition Leader, John Briceno, called on government to do something about the escalating crime situation. Mr. Briceno in his statement said that government lacked a coherent anti-crime strategy.

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#387922 - 09/16/10 02:37 PM Re: GOB announces witness protection program [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Under Pressure, Police Launch Witness Protection Program

Tropical Storm Karl made landfall north of the Belize Mexico Border this morning - and our team was there. We'll have that story for you shortly but first to the thing that's on everyone's mind: CRIME.

Over the tenth weekend the police put 170 additional officers out on the city streets and at one point had 130 so called troublemakers detained - but with all that - still, on Sunday all hell broke loose.

And the murder of 8 year old Eyannie Nunez that resulted from that killing spree has crystallized public opinion around the sentiment that it's just gone too far, and collectively, law abiding city residents just can't take it anymore.

The police department has been taking the brunt of the criticism for a plague of violence that has become an epidemic. Today Police and Public Safety Minister Douglas Singh convened a press conference to face the music.

He opened up by conceding that things are out of hand with a murder rate that is on pace to set a dismal new record.

Hon. Doug Singh - Minister of Police and Public Safety
"I don't think we are going to hide behind what the statistical numbers are. Most recent information is as of the 15th of September the murder rate is up at about 22 more than year to date last year which means that we appear to be heading to all time high if we don't do something significantly to change the pattern."

Jules Vasquez, Reporting
And for Singh, that something begins and ends with recruiting the support of a wary public:

Hon. Doug Singh - Minister of Police and Public Safety
"I think that the public morale is at a all time low with respect to what individuals feel that they can do in helping to assist the police and addressing the crime situation."

And that starts with the activation of a witness protection program that commences operation today:

Hon. Doug Singh - Minister of Police and Public Safety
"The situation in Belize now is desperate. We have decided to put in place a witness protection program. There is a telephone number that we have assigned to a specific officer. That telephone number is a mobile number which means that that officer will respond anytime that number is called and be able to meet the witness and discuss the situation and evaluate the level of risk and make the appropriate steps, put the appropriate measures in place for the protection of the witness if it is necessary. That telephone number is 670-0026. It is actually immediately in effect. We have given out the number, so the number is a live number. The number is an active number and it has been assigned to an officer. He is somebody who is discreet, he is somebody who is professional and he is somebody who does not come with any kind of baggage. That person will have tremendous authority with respect to making the decisions, the recommendations and to make the arrangements for the witnesses to be protected."

And with that in place they made a pitch for persons to come forward to assist with the spate of weekend murders:

Hon. Doug Singh - Minister of Police and Public Safety
"I understand that people have gotten to a position where snitching is a bad thing to do, sometimes for their personal safety, sometimes for the safety for other members of the family. But if this becomes the status quo, then we are not going to go anywhere."

Crispin Jeffries, Commissioner of police
"Jules, I think you heard the statement about the football team that keeps only the star players on the team all the time, it will never continue to win. We need those on the bench to come on board and the people on the bench are those witnesses to crime. The police are only the investigators, we need to step up."

Singh says the police is doing its part to regain public confidence by preparing to purge rogue officers:

Hon. Doug Singh - Minister of Police and Public Safety
"We are moving strongly at identifying some of the officers within the department for removal within the next 30 days. I am not going to say who those people are, but we are looking at that, we are looking at this. It may not be a huge amount but we may not be able to convict these individuals but just in the effort of trying to move forward individuals will be removed from the department."

But more than bad cops, guns in the street are the problem:

Crispin Jeffries, Commissioner of police
"The problems we face in Belize are 4 major areas. Homicides, gangs, drugs but primarily guns. Guns over the last 4 years statistically has been on the increase in their use in crimes of homicide and robberies. When we look at our murders between 2002 and now, they have been very close to 670 murders of which more than 51% has occurred with guns. it is some frightening statistics. While these figures are random I can actually share these statistics with you Mr. Vasquez because I know these are the figures you like to play with and you refer to me as the statistical commissioner."

But Sunday's killing spree is more than just another statistic for the department - it is an event that has left society reeling:

Hon. Doug Singh - Minister of Police and Public Safety
"This press conference today is o direct response to what happen over the weekend. We are not going to deny that and I think putting some of these things in place immediately is as a result of the immediate need to do so."

The new head of CIB - ASP Alden Dawson says that they do know why Eyannie Nunez was killed:

ASP Alden Dawson, Officer Commanding CIB
"We believe that the murder of Eyannie Nunez was caused over firearm that is being held by a family member of Eyannie Nunez and at this the information we receive is that he refused to hand over back that firearm which may have led to the shooting. We believe that the shooters believe at the time that that family member was home in that room. There is nothing to indicate that Eyannie Nunez was the intended target in that shooting."

Crispin Jeffries, Commissioner of Police
"The incident on Castle Street clearly some of our information is indication that it was a result of a fight that occurred earlier where somebody was hit in the head with a bottle. The incident as Mr. Dawson indicated on Zericote Street was because of a stolen firearm. Similar information exists in respect to one of the other cases and the third is yet for us to confirm the other information. But this is where our investigation is leading us."

Police say that no motive has been established in the other murders - but minister Singh accepts that it may have something to do with the 170 additional police officers on the street in Belize city.

Hon. Doug Singh - Minister of Police and Public Safety
"If you look at what happened over the last weekend. Most of the crimes that occurred increase surveillance may not have been able to prevent. These crimes were not related, they were scattered in different areas of the city and most of them were done I believe after 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. During a period when crime is generally the lowest. This is not accidental; we have changed our system of operation in eastern division where Assistant Commissioner of Police Aragon has started focusing on some of the hot areas. So we've increased policing in certain areas such as the George Street area and some other areas and it appears that we may have displaced some of these activities. Whenever from a policing standpoint we start focusing on the hot areas from a policing standpoint crime activities get displaced in other neighborhoods and that may have been a typical example of that. Look at the timing of those activities, they all happen in very early morning in most cases, right? We know that this was a possibility but the reality is we do not have the human and police resources to police everywhere with the level of man power that the public demands and expect all over the city at all hours of the day."

The deployment of the new fully trained recruit intake at the end of the month should help with that.

For clarity, up to September 15 2010 - there have been 93 murders, while up to September 15, 2009, there had been 71 an increase of 22 murders.

And while murder figures could reach a dismal new high, a number of new initiatives are coming on stream. They include moving the internal affairs department out of the police and into the ministry of national security - directly under the CEO with public sector oversight.

As regards the investigations into Sunday's murders, in the Eynnie Nunez murder, one persons has been detained and police are looking for one other person. In the murder of Everett Davis, 3 persons are being sought and a small red car has been impounded, in the case of MARLON ZELAYA, one suspect is being sought and in the case of Apolonio Hernandez investigators say progress in that case is slower than others.

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#388468 - 09/24/10 02:36 PM Re: GOB announces witness protection program [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Belize Starts Witness Protection Program

BELMOPAN, Belize, Thursday September 16, 2010 – With the number of murders so far for 2010 just five away from surpassing last year’s total figure, authorities in Belize have announced a witness protection program to convince people with information on these crimes to come forward.

Minister of Police and Public Safety Doug Singh said the initiative was put in place because the country is now in a “desperate” situation. The program kicked in from Wednesday, September 17 and Singh explained that protection would be provided for those people who give information that leads to a conviction or those who may have to testify in court and feel their safety is at risk.

“There are strict guidelines that will be adhered to,” he said.

The announcement follows public outrage over six murders last weekend alone and calls this week by Opposition Leader John Briceno, who lamented the lack of a clear anti-crime strategy, for government to do something about the murder rate. Up to last weel, there were 93 murders recorded for 2010 – compared to 71 for the same period last year and 97 for all of 2009.

“I am aware that there are members of the public who may be witnesses to some of these crimes who are intimidated, who feel threatened especially in light of rumors of what may have happened to some witnesses in the past,” Singh said. "I understand that people have gotten to a position where snitching is a bad thing to do, sometimes for their personal safety, sometimes for the safety for other members of the family. But if this becomes the status quo, then we are not going to go anywhere."

He said he had spoken with the Guatemalan Ambassador about two months ago about the possibility of engaging in a cross border agreement in which each country could protect witnesses in the other. However, he said Belize could no longer wait for that to come through.

“He has promised to look into the matter but these things don’t happen overnight and the situation in Belize now is desperate. We have decided to put in place a witness protection program,” Singh announced.

The National Security Minister said that hand in hand with the witness protection program would be a purging of the police force.

"We are moving strongly at identifying some of the officers within the department for removal within the next 30 days. I am not going to say who those people are, but we are looking at that,” he said. “It may not be a huge amount, we may not be able to convict these individuals but, just in the effort of trying to move forward, individuals will be removed from the department."

The police force will also be pushing to get illegal guns – the weapons of choice in more than half the murders committed over the last eight years – off the streets.

Ambergris Today


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#388497 - 09/24/10 06:40 PM Re: GOB announces witness protection program [Re: Marty]
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