SAN PEDRO, Wed. Dec. 5
Residents of San Pedro told Amandala yesterday, Tuesday, that they are tired of the high rate of crime on their tourist island, and are asking their area representative to recommend to Government that "if a person is found guilty of robbery, his wrist be cut off, plus he is sent to jail for several years."
The citizens say they are prepared to demonstrate against what they perceive as the San Pedro Town Board's complacency on the matter.
Four Town Board members told the newspaper that crime was not out of control as the people are insisting, because "the police have everything under control."
In a letter written on Monday, December 3, addressed to Hon. Patty Arceo, area representative for Belize Rural South, and signed by fifty tour guides and members of the Belize Tourist Guide Association, the signatories complained of constant assaults on tourists on the island, and say that eight independent tour guides have lost their skiffs in a one-month period.
Local business owners told the newspapers they are terrified of keeping their businesses open too late, and say that prostitution is on the rise.
Some residents say they are planning to arm themselves at home, and when they leave their homes at night, or even during the day. Foreign business magnates on the island have talked about selling out their establishments and moving back to their respective countries.
A restaurant owner on Tarpon Street told Amandala yesterday that about a month ago she was leaving her establishment around 10:10 p.m., and as she locked the door a Hispanic male came out of nowhere and held her up at gunpoint. The man demanded money, which he was given, and he then fled.
A tourist visiting from Kentucky said that he frequents the island, but sometimes he is careful of the time of day he takes his strolls on the island. He has been robbed four times since July - two of those times he lost valuable items.
Amandala spoke with three very distraught tour guides who have lost thousands of dollars in fishing equipment, outboard engines and in damages to their skiffs. Manuel Azueta said he had recently gotten a loan to purchase a skiff; he had not made one payment towards his loan, however, when his boat went missing. When the boat finally resurfaced, miles from his house, the 60 HP engine was missing.
Francisco Perez, a tour guide of Pescador Drive, found his boat on Hick's Caye on Sunday, December 3, after it went missing for nine days. The boat was damaged, his two 60 HP Yamaha engines were missing, and $10,000 in boat equipment was gone.
A woman, suspected to be a Salvadoran national, was found dead on a street in the San Juan area of the town.
Two women tourists were assaulted at a popular resort on Northern Ambergris Caye earlier this year. The report was not made official, but a well-circulated United States magazine published the story, and verbally bashed the entire country of Belize and its judicial system.
Contrary to what the Town Board spokespersons are insisting, activists on the island said it was evident that the wave of crime is high, and it was also evident that inevitably, the problem would begin affecting the growth of the tourism industry.
No one has been able to pinpoint contributing factors for the increasing criminal acts, but some people believe that the absence of tourism police and the inadequacy of the San Pedro Police branch may be two reasons.
Hon. Patty Arceo told Amandala that she is cognizant of the problem the town is facing. She said that she has consulted the Belize Tourism Board and Police Department about having more police officers and tourism police on the island. The departments said that they have assigned over six police officers and will have two tourism police on the island by Friday, December 7.
A member of the San Pedro Advisory Committee told the newspaper that he has written seven letters to the Belize Tourist Board, and has not gotten a reply. If the Government of Belize does not take San Pedro's crime problem seriously, the committee will encourage locals to join them in a demonstration against GOB.
"Crime on our island is really getting out of control …we will start lynching the thieves, rapists, and attackers," the member said.
Anticipating opposition to their tough stance, the letter to the Hon. Arceo read: "Pay no mind to the human rights [organization], because these thieves have no mercy on the hard-working, honest and law-abiding citizens of Belize."
So very disheartening.
[This message has been edited by Mosquitorose (edited 12-12-2001).]