REPORT #476 March 2002

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

(correspondence letters taken from the Belize debating listserve)

I had a several similar experiences. You learn not to bother the police and certainly nothing to do with anybody in the police or the court system in Belize City, or Belmopan, when you live on Caye Caulker. This over 40 years of living there.

Vigilante justice is the only thing that works, done by yourself and in secret with no friends, participants, or witnesses. Keep your mouth shut and teach them a lesson in the dark of night.

This is why in our Belize Development Issues Reports, we always insist on locally elected police chief and a locally elected judge in each community. As in USA or Canada.

This has not happened yet, but Caye Caulker community could lead the way and I believe they have the power to do so under the new Local Government Village legislation? They need to elect their own 2 year or 1 year judge and pay them a small salary and a police chief from the community to control the national police.

There has never been any satisfaction with the colonial police and judge system. Nor is there any justice. The criminal can come back and burn you out of your house and many threaten to do that and they at least take vengeance.

The system creates victims. The Caye Caulker community need to take the bull by the horns and establish their own court and use the police station cell for sentences.

This message sent to the Bz-Culture Mailing List

Wendy and Tina: Maybe you can shed some light on this story, which was posted to the message board. Is this true? If it is, it surely does not bode well for the battle against crime.

How do you get to become a judge in Belize? Are judges appointed, elected, or what? Are they appointed for life, or for some definite term? And what checks and balances are there if they don't do their job?

Here's the posting:

posted 03-13-2002 09:57 PM

I have just returned from Caye Caulker. I've been there every winter for the past ten years and love the place. The police presence has greatly improved over the years, and the Village Council is now very active and involved in making it a better place.

The problem I am addressing is one that has been going on for several years but seems worse lately. It involves a lack of support for the Caye Caulker Police by judges in Belize City.

While I was there this time, four criminals from Belize City stole a boat and came out to Caye Caulker. While there, they "rolled" a tourist and stole the woman's money and passport. The Caye Caulker Police and the entire community were alerted and within hours, the four were arrested and the boat and a gun were confiscated. The Police found the woman's belongings on one of the criminals and returned them to her.

We were all very proud of our Police Department in catching these criminals, especially when we learned that several of the criminals were wanted for other crimes in Belize City.

When the issue came to court in Belize City a week later, the four men were released back on the Street by the Judge, and the Judge threatened to arrest the Caye Caulker Police for giving the woman back her belongings because with her passport, she was able to leave Belize and could not be a witness.

However, there were other witnesses to the crime. The police testified that the woman's belongings were in the possession of the criminals when they arrested them. The criminals clearly had stolen a boat and were in possession of an illegal firearm. Yet, they were all released.

I heard this morning that another boat load of criminals were found walking the streets of Caye Caulker, making trouble yesterday. The police have detained them, but as usual, they will probably receive no support from the Belize City judges.

All the local police can do is hassle criminals from Belize City, hoping that the notion that Caye Caulker is wide open to criminals will not become worse.

I experienced a similar event two months ago when a criminal from Belize City stole the steering mechanism from our boat. When he was confronted by a friend on Caye Caulker, the criminal attacked him.

My friend defended himself and hit the attacker. When the altercation was brought before the Belize City Judge, my friend was put in jail and given a $2,000 fine. The criminal was released, despite the fact that the he had a long record of crime. My friend went to jail despite the fact that he is a very respected, long-time citizen of the island who had never been in any trouble.

I have talked to many folks on Caye Caulker about this situation. The police there are very frustrated. Some people say that the Judges in Belize City are a part of the criminal network, while others say it is just a matter that the Belize justice system is too lenient and requires extreme proof before anyone is ever convicted of a crime.

Whatever the reason, the word is out to criminals in Belize City that they can do anything they want on Caye Caulker and not worry about prosecution.

This is very unfortunate. Caye Caulker has come to depend on tourism. With these crimes going unpunished, the situation will become increasingly worse and cause people to avoid the Island.

Caye Caulker is a small community. The people there immediately recognize outsiders. Everyone is alert to potential criminals who might make trouble. The local Police are very good, but without the support of the judges in Belize City, Caye Caulker will no longer be a safe place for tourists or residents.

Back to Main Belize Development Trust Page

Maintained by Ray Auxillou, Silvia Pinzon, MLS, and Marty Casado. Please email with suggestions or additions for this Electronic Library of Belize.