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#420902 - 11/03/11 09:28 AM PM Says: Gang Truce Driving Down Murder Rate
Marty Offline
As we showed you at the top of the newscast, the big news coming out of today's quarterly press conference was the possibility that your light bill could go down in the first quarter of 2012, paving the way for what looks to be a year that could feature both municipal and general elections.

And - in line with that political mandate - one of the issues that the Prime Minister also keyed in on is the success of the gang truce. Since it was hammered out in early September - according to the Police Department's stats - there have been no gang related murders. We might beg to differ on that - and we'll get to that point shortly - but first to the official spin, which is that the murder rate for September and October of 2011 is about half of what it was for the same two months last year.

The Prime Minister discussed that the success is based on the fact that the gangs have been given community work to do:

Prime Minister Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"So the plain fact is that no entity that was part of the truce, no affiliate of any of those entities has broken the truce, and it is now 2 full months since that truce has been effected, and so far so good. so far, so very good. Clearly, the dip - the very welcomed dip in the murder rate - is due principally to the gang truce. The Government kept its side of the bargains, all the neighborhood groupings that were involved in the truce have been given work to do. They have been given neighborhood improvement projects that Government is funding. And those have created employment for a significant amount of the young men involved in this life. So of course, it's come at a cost; again, these are unbudgeted funds that we've had to find, but we've been very happy to find those funds. And we've been very happy at the outcome - at the result - that this funding has produced. We will continue with these programs - with these projects - and we hope and expect that the young men will, from their end, continue to hold it down. Of course, ultimately Government is committed, and so whatever Government has to do to continue this program, for as long as the gangs hold up their end of the bargain, Government will do."

But now going back to that point - about no gang related killings since the truce was hammered out.

Our count is that there have been at least two - and arguably three - primary among those being nine year old Joshua Abraham who was shot - as a consequence of feuding between Kelly and Victoria streets.

But the official stats don't count that as a gang related murder, the PM explained why and we challenged him on it:

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"Since we signed that gang truce, there has not been a single gang-related murder occurring in Belize City. As a consequence of a neighborhood dispute - it's perhaps more than a dispute - between Kelly Street and Victoria Street, somebody was killed, but we didn't know Kelly Street and Victoria Street to be the locus of gangs."

Jules Vasquez
"Kelly Street and Victoria Street, while you may not wish to call it a gang because the invigilators of the gang landscape did not included them, those are known to be rival crews."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"Well then, we will get into -"

Jules Vasquez
"And it's a 9 year-old who was killed."

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"No man, we are not talking about the child - anyways, have your say. But to deny the fact that country-wide in September, there were 7 or 8 murders as opposed to last September when there were 16 or 18 or so."

Jules Vasquez
"I don't know that that is anything to celebrate if we have - if it was such an aberration -"

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"But you see, in terms of the press, I bet you if it was 21, that would have been something that you would have been celebrating on Channel 7. You would have been out there 'hollering' 'See'."

Jules Vasquez
"We would have noted it, sir."

What also caught our attention was the announcement that the BDF presence has been scaled back in what were known to be gang hotspots.

The PM disclosed this in answer to a question about busses that would have been provided as stationary mobile patrol at crime hotspots. He said that now there's no need for them:

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"What was the sort of battle plan at that time is certainly no longer the battle plan today. The BDF was very much involved. They have been withdrawn. The policing is now being doing by the Belize Police Department, because of what has happened with the gang truce, where is really a - thankfully - far less of a need for saturation resources in terms of human resources. We have been able to pull out as well, the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard was part of the whole equation. So as far as I know, there is not the mobile policing being done by way of - or the parking of buses in particularly troubled neighborhoods, because there is not any longer a need for that. The need may well arise in the future. Nobody is suggesting that this truce will hold forever. But as I said, it is holding so far, and we are going to do everything we can to ensure that it will continue to hold."

Channel 7

#421003 - 11/04/11 09:14 AM Re: PM Says: Gang Truce Driving Down Murder Rate [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Belize Gangs Try to Encourage De-Escalation of Weaponry

And while there are connections between that gang and local drug dealers, thankfully, the gang situation in Belize, right now, is nowhere near that Chicago situation.

In fact, according to law enforcement officials there has not been one gang related murder since a truce was hammered out in early September. And today there was another positive sign coming from the gangs: in a low-key event one gang handed over a firearm with two rounds for destruction.

It's a working handgun - and Pastor Paul Cassanova who's been facilitating the gang truce says that the gesture is being made to encourage other gangs to follow suit:..

Pastor Paul Cassanova
"What we witness here today is destruction of a gun, one that was voluntarily surrendered to the CYDP by one of the groups' participation in the truce."

Jules Vasquez
"Now explain to me what is symbolism of the gesture? It's only one gun, we know there are many more out there in the streets."

Pastor Paul Cassanova
"For me Jules it's a serious step forward, being that no money was offered, this was not anything that we ever discus with any of them, and they volunteered so I think, even if one gun comes forward I am hopeful and hoping that it would trigger off a domino effect and we will have other groups volunteering to bring weapons forward."

Jules Vasquez
"Now, it can be interpreted two ways; ether one, it's a set up to soften up the authorities into thinking that well there is a de-escalation, while there may not be and things might start jump off again. Or it may indeed be a genuine step forward. What's your interpretation?"

Pastor Paul Cassanova
"I take it as a genuine step forward Jules, simply for the fact that it came from them as a voluntary issue and secondly I believe that for maybe for the last six week, close the two months that they have been holding it down, so I want to just say that I believe that it's genuine their stepping forward. It's one gun yes but it's one gun less on the streets and I am hoping again like I said that it would cause some kind of domino effect and maybe we have more guns being volunteered off the streets."

The gun handover was facilitated by Restore Belize, CYDP and Pastor Cassanova - with minimal police presence.

Channel 7


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