Stakeholders meet in Placencia to counter crime
There has been increasing violence in the Placencia peninsula where the beaches are among the most pristine and the area has become a hot diving destination. What was once a small sleepy village has boomed into a major adventure getaway. But the crime wave is threatening the security of residents and visitors and can potentially affect tourism. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports on emergency measures being taken to keep the peninsula safe.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
Placencia has long been the seaside getaway of choice for locals and foreigners alike wanting to enjoy the sun and breeze of southern Belize. The village has quickly become the commercial hub for tourism in the Stann Creek District. But along with the rapid expansion of the community comes a growing concern for its many residents.
Charles Leslie Jr.
Charles Leslie Jr., Village Chairman, Placencia
“Placencia Village has over seventeen hundred people and the entire peninsula we have roughly five thousand people. We only have about nine officers on the Placencia peninsula and that’s one of the problems. When I became chairman on April 18th, 2010 we had about fifteen officers and we have been reduced from fifteen officers now to about nine officers and the community is growing and the disparity and the gap between security from the police officers and business that is being established in the community on the peninsula is growing at a rapid pace and the officers in this area are being reduced and it’s not making much sense.”
The recent spike in crime, the latest incident being the assault of several tourists vacationing off the Pelican Cayes last weekend, has prompted residents to call an emergency meeting. At the heart of the problem is a dire need for increased police presence.
David Henderson, Commissioner of Police
“We will look at the restructuring of the department out here. We’ll improve on the management level in order that we put a senior ranking [officer] out here in order that he can make proper decisions for deployment and really address whatever situation might arise.”
“What is being done at this present moment? I know suggestions were made earlier to have checkpoints and what have you. What can be done or what is being done to secure all the other communities leading up to Placencia?”
“First of all we will look at our intelligence in order that we must really operate based on intelligence. The intelligence personnel will be deployed in the area, gather whatsoever information we may need and we will ensure that we will really deploy operational people to address the situation.”
The reduction of officers here has made Placencia an ideal target for criminals who purposely access this neck of land by boat. Majority of the crimes committed are believed to be perpetrated by outsiders.
“The police force here has the toughest job. They have a job of [patrolling the] sea. We are almost surrounded by sea. People can escape by the lagoon, by the ocean, by road so it’s one of the toughest jobs. I feel like it’s harder to man the Mango Creek. Mango Creek you could say a lot of things need to move through the road because nobody wants to come to Placencia. A lot of people there don’t have access to boats. Here they steal your boat and they get away. They take a paddling canoe and they get away. So for me the combating of crime and the geography of how they escape and enter is far beyond what these police can do.”
One of the many setbacks is the absence of a police patrol craft.
Raymond Mossiah, B.T.B. Representative
“I am pleased to inform you that we have already made the first down payment on purchasing a boat for the Tourism Police Unit so by the end, so by the end of next month that boat should be ready and it should be in operation.”
Another suggestion came from Emilio Zabaneh who proposed that checkpoints be established in all villages leading to Placencia.
Emilio Zabaneh, Placencia Resident
“We can put these police booths as gates to our communities, one for Placencia, one for Seine Bight, one for Maya Beach and we must be willing to pay twenty-five cent for that policeman or whoever is manning that thing. We need to get these things up and running and we need to figure out how we can make them work.”
At the helm of the meeting is Village Chairman Charles Leslie Jr. At the head table with him are several government officials who made the journey south to address the problems at hand.
Charles Leslie Jr.
“We are going to try to establish a steering committee to address the actuation of the solution because many times as a villager, I was born here, raised here, I’ve been to many meetings [and] people talk, ideas are thrown around [and when] the meeting is over nothing happens. I do not want that to happen this time. We’re going to set up this steering committee; we’re going to work with the commissioner and Mr. Mossiah from B.T.B., Ms. Diana Hall. We’re going to work with every single person, the area representative, the chairman of Seine Bight Village and we’re going to implement these solutions to the crime problem and to basically every other problem that we are facing on this peninsula.”
A follow up meeting has also been scheduled to look at the influx of visitors on Placencia during the Easter weekend in light of recent developments. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.