Northern Ambergris Caye, despite a handful of high-end, luxury resorts, has become the stomping grounds for beach combers who roam the largely uninhabited expanse in search of drug deposits. Criminal activity in the vicinity is being attributed to an ongoing turf war among playadores who are reportedly feuding over territory believed to be the drop-off location for narcotics destined for Mexico. In the wake of a ghastly double homicide on Wednesday, eleven and a half miles outside of San Pedro Town, the Belize National Coast Guard is ramping up its presence in the area with maritime and foot patrols extending to the Belize/Mexico border. According to Commander Elton Bennett, the initiative is a joint effort with the police department and the Belize Defense Force.
Commander Elton Bennett, Vice Commandant, BNCG
“The area of Northern Ambergris Caye continues to be our main effort, the geo-strategic location of that area is so critical for law enforcement. We believe that this is the breeding ground for criminal activities, for the criminal network that operates from Ambergris Caye. We have launched extensive operations in the area trying to hold that area in order to prevent the beach combers from operating. What we see is a turf war in the area of Northern Ambergris where different factions from Ambergris Caye are fighting for territory to control in order to conduct drug transactions that would move to San Pedro Town and thereafter disseminated. So we do see a spike in crime and criminal activities in that area and as recent as the double murders. What we have planned along with the defense force and the Belize Police Department is to increase the intensity of our operations in that area and we will ensure that the area is safe and secure and try to prevent any further criminal activities from occurring in that area.”
In the past there have been incidents where law enforcement patrols have come under fire from beach combers north of the island. In mid-December, alleged beach comber Pedro Castillo was shot and killed during an exchange of gunfire with coast guard personnel twenty-one and a half miles away from town.