Love FM did a piece yesterday on folks in Orange Walk that are protesting the relocation of gang members to the town. I have also heard that the GOB has relocated others to Burrel Boom. RESIDENTS OF SAN LORENZO HOUSING SITE RAISE CONCERN OVER NEWCOMERS
Residents of the San Lorenzo Housing site in Orange Walk Town have raised concerns following the discovery that a number of new residents are now their neighbours.
Maria Novelo reporting...
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“15 of the most high energy gang members and affiliates from one of the most challenging areas of Belize City have been taken on by the Ministry of Works. They will be dispatched to jobs in the rural areas of three different districts. We believe this will result in an immediate decrease old capital shooting.”
Maria Novelo reporting…
That was last month during the presentation of the budget. And with the fiscal year already started, the government has moved quickly to implement the plan. But for residents of the San Lorenzo housing site in Orange Walk it is a source of anxiety as they are now faced with the prospects of co-existence with five prominent Belize City gang affiliates who have recently taken up residence in their community.
“I’m not sure if they bring anything positive, it is more negative. We have kids out of school, we have kids without job, they can always influence them easy. Like the old saying says trouble find trouble. We never know what those guys did in Belize City and you never know if other guys will come here and look for them and maybe someday they have a shootout maybe some innocent bystander passing and it could be something serious and also peddling drugs and firearms.
Maria Novelo - Reporter
Have you seen them doing any illicit or illegal activity?
Not at all. I don’t even want to be around, I don’t want them to even start.
We came here to live and I felt so happy, I felt good but from the time they sent these young men here, I feel afraid. The poor children as well, they just see the vehicle with them in there and they get scared. At night you can’t even have your children out here playing at night, you have to call them in early. It was not like this before.”
Across the board their overall sentiment is that the newcomers are not welcome in this albeit small but tight knit community. The residents say they no longer feel safe in their own homes. But Prime Minister Dean Barrow says the initiative was supported as the members showed willingness to change.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“This has come about because of an approach made to me by perhaps the most feared of the so called gang leaders; I didn’t seek him out, he sought me out and this Mr. Speaker is therefore an extremely significant signal of a willingness to change.”
A neighbourhood watch meeting was held on Sunday, which had the participation of members of the main opposition People’s United Party, the government and police during which the residents made their displeasure known. And while the reactions we gathered vary, some residents say they believe in giving second chances.
"Suppose they intend to get better, change their lives, well we would accept them. Right now they are not doing anything, I don’t even know them. I am just hearing rumors that the gangs came, the Prime Minister or somebody sent them down here to cool off the city. In a way that is right but in a way the people are scared because they know that gangs brings bad thing. But if they intend to change, like the police say they can’t tell them where to live, they have freedom they can live anywhere they want."
"The guys can change, but who knows if the person they have committed crime against have changed and will forgive them. There are specific areas within the country; big land for example like on the Northern Highway coming up at Rhaburn Ridge, abandoned buildings where they can stay. We do not need them to come into our society and for us to protect them, that is the way I see it. We are their protector.”
Majority of the neighbourhood watch committee voted for a petition to have the government move the gang members to another location. For now they have taken up residents at this fully furnished home on Sabalo Street, complete with paid utilities and a full time job at the Ministry of Works. We were unable to get comment from the police or the Mayor of Orange Walk Town. LOVEFM