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As a result of the various murders and shootings which occurred in Belize City over the weekend and into the early portion of this week, the Ministry of National Security, on Tuesday April 24th issued the following release, outlining their short term solution for restoring some level of peace in the City.

The Ministry of National Security wishes to inform the general public of the details of their planned operations in Belize City. With effect from 4pm, 23 April, 2012 the following measures have been taken:

  1. Static and roving vehicle check points were established throughout the City and at Hattieville and mile 4 on the Western highway, Boom junction and at the Manatee lookout area on the Northern highway. Members from the Criminal Intelligence Unit are assigned to these areas in order to assist in the Identification of known gang members and their affiliates.
  2. Vehicle Check Points were also established at The River crossings at Belcan and Bel China with security forces lookout points at the approaches to the Swing Bridge. Motor cycles are assigned to the lookout points in order to intercept and interdict criminal element operating in those areas.
  3. A security Corridor is established along Central American Boulevard and Princess Margret Drive from the Esso Depot to UB Campus in Button Wood Bay. ATV’s are assigned to the security team along the Security Corridor. This is to ensure that Students and Workers can move freely to and from their place of business in those areas.
  4. Over forty (40) Belize Defence Force Soldiers were sworn in as Special Constables to allow them to carry out their functions during this operation.
  5. In the various “Hot Spots”, stop and search operations at key areas are established. Key choke point areas are manned especially in the vicinity of George Street, Taylors Alley, Rocky Road and May Flower areas.
  6. Static and roving foot and vehicle patrols are established in and around the various zones where criminal activities are known to occur.
  7. CYDP operations continue in the various problem areas.

There are other planned initiatives which complement these overt operations, which, for operational security reasons, we are unable to share with the Public.

In view of these manpower intensive containment operations it is expected that there will be some inconvenience and disruption of the lives of many due to the nature of our intended operations. We therefore, want to appeal to the Public to lend their support and have some understanding for the action of the security forces as we act in the interest of public safety, especially over the next few days.

Also, in order to avoid any unnecessary delays motorists (the driving public) are asked to have a valid driving license with them and other members of the public are encouraged to have some form of ID since there may be instances when they may be asked to ID themselves.

The Ministry asks that the general public remains calm as we assure you that the situation is being thoroughly and properly managed.

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Minister Saldivar outlines new crime fighting measures

New crime fighting measures

Minister of National Security John Saldivar this morning hosted a Press Conference in Belize City to update the nation on the weekend violence. Flanked by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Housing Minister Michael Finnegan, Human Development Minister Anthony Martinez and Junior Minister Mark King, Saldivar explained since the middle of last week, there has been increased police presence on the streets of Belize City.

According to Saldivar, since January, there have been thirty shooting incidents, nineteen of them resulting in murder, with the majority of them resulting from ongoing gang rivalries. That violence in the city in the last 72 hours resulted in three people being killed. Minister Saldivar announced that an additional eighty police officers are being deployed in Belize City to help bring things back under control.

Minister Saldivar says his government will do all in its power to return the city to normalcy so that, quote: "we will again live in a tranquil haven," end of quote.

During the question and answer period, Minister Saldivar told reporters that he could not go into specifics about other measures being implemented to stem the crime wave in Belize City, he is confident that things will work out.

Even as the Ministerial press conference was getting started at the Biltmore, news was being received of another broad daylight shooting incident. The victim has been identified as forty year old Corrington Bowden. The incident happened on Freetown road. Reports are that Bowden was standing in front of a boutique on Freetown Road when he was approached by a man on a bicycle who fired a single shot hitting him in the face. Bowden was taken to the Karl Heusner Memorial hospital where he is listed in a stable condition. Police investigations continue.


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More police for Old Capital in crime "crisis"

The Old Capital remained on edge this past weekend, as an already tense atmosphere became more so following five reported deaths beginning on Friday, part of a greater epidemic of seventeen murders reported since the start of this month.

Today, the heads of various ministries in the recently re-elected Dean Barrow administration faced the press at the River Hall of the Belize Biltmore Plaza, to outline a strategy for moving forward.

After the execution of Shelton August, 31, also known as Shelton “Pinky” Tillett, and female companion Kamille Andrews, 23, on Friday night at the Esso Gas Station at the Northern Highway, and the death of legendary street figure Arthur Young, 36, who died, according to initial police reports, after struggling with officers who were bringing him in connection with August’s death early this morning, there are increased questions as to the stability of the truce signed between the authorities and the leaders of the various gangs situated across the City.

Rattled City residents also question whether the police, in conjunction with the Belize Defence Force (BDF), can effectively restore and keep order after two clashes between the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) and other elite police units, and residents of first George Street and then Taylor’s Alley, both located close to the downtown area.

The response from authorities, primarily Minister of National Security John Saldivar, is somewhat akin to that given during hurricane emergencies: stay calm, prepare and do not listen to rumors.

Saldivar first acknowledged the concerns of the public in relation to gang warfare in Belize City, stating that despite “increased visible presence” of the security forces on the streets since January and in particular since last Wednesday, April 18, there had been 30 shooting incidents and nineteen murders reported (the latter tally reflects our unofficial figures collected to date), leading up to the deaths of Orlando Reyes, 20, Tillett and Andrews, and Peter Flowers, 26, on Saturday.

With a fifth additional murder in Belmopan, that of Luis Valladarez, 28, the count for murders to date is 38 across Belize. (Each death, as well as that of Arthur Young, will be reported on separately elsewhere in this issue.) Saldivar freely described the situation as a “crisis.”

In addition to the murders, Larry Sutherland, 40, was shot and is in stable condition at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), and during the press conference, news broke of another shooting incident on Freetown Road, in which one Corrington Bodden, 40, was shot in the face. He too is now in a stable condition.

Saldivar then condemned “the reports, especially in the social media, of a bloody retaliation, which rumored up to a dozen dead and more to come…” as “idle, or malicious, exaggeration.”

So what will the Ministry do? According to Saldivar, beginning on Sunday, more troops and officers, “close to 80”, were deployed with a mandate to “effectively contain, interdict, and dismantle all factions that are not participating in the truce and are involved in these criminal activities. These operations are done to ensure that crime and violence are reduced and that the truce return(s) back to its November 2011 status.”

This containment will involve “effectively patrolling, by means of foot, ATV’s, motorcycles and vehicles, and targeting of special areas and persons of interest.”

Saldivar attributed Young’s capture to the efforts already in place to slow down crime in the City.

After detailing the police’s version of what happened to Young, Acting Commissioner of Police David Henderson deflected all further questions, stating, “I will not speculate, I will not jump to any conclusion; the matter is under investigation; as soon as it is through, we will know the true facts and you will get whatsoever details you need to get.”

He thus refused to comment on or confirm whether Young’s death was accidental or part of a struggle with police, or how many times he was shot.

Concerning the Ministry’s and police’s efforts to calm the fear in the streets, alleged by Minister Saldivar to have been raised by excessive and erroneous reports in social media and by other avenues, Saldivar explained, in response to questions from Amandala and KREM Radio, that the Department responded to concerns with a public release and advised that “even media persons (should) stop being reckless with what they post on the social media; that would help us to calm the situation.” He later clarified that his statement was not an attack on the established media and stated, “…in fact I don’t visit the social media so I wouldn’t even know who is on there, but I have been told of what has been said out there, and not having information – and I understand clearly my Department’s and my Ministry’s job of trying to make sure that we can disseminate information – but not having that information is no excuse to be putting out the wrong information.”  

On the status of the truce, the Minister explained that a meeting of 11 leaders took place yesterday (George Street and Gill Street were not present, but meetings are expected with them), at which those leaders gave their continued commitment to the truce; “full force” would be brought down on those who refuse to be involved.

Asked about other options, such as implementing curfews, the Minister indicated that certain options, which he declined to specify, are being considered, but insisted that he feels that this show of force would be enough to calm things down.

Later, when questioned about the safety of students who go to school in the night, Saldivar said that “the Ministry is doing all in its power at this time, and we believe that our strategy will work and we need to give it time to work.”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Minister for Human Development and Social Transformation Anthony “Boots” Martinez weighed in on the measures from the aspect of finance and operations. Minister Martinez stated that under the purview of his junior Minister, Mark King, and RESTORE Belize, “We have put in extremely strict guidelines where there should be proper reporting in terms of work schedule and a working plan for the week from the Gang Truce…it’s a must, even before we (had) this tragedy. At the end of the day, I think that it is very important for us to get quality work and value for money…”

The Prime Minister was asked where the money will come from for the various youth projects championed by his administration, since Government does not plan to read the 2012 Budget until July.

He said in reply that, “…the Government continues to collect its revenue, and we have done a provision, we have promulgated a provision that allows the allocations that were voted for the last Budget to continue until the new Budget has been finalized, read, presented and passed. So there is no difficulty at all with cash flow, and there is absolutely no problem with the funding that is needed for all Government’s efforts, all Government’s output, but in particular…the resources necessary for the security forces to continue to do their work.”


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Marty Offline OP
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Police Smother City for Safety

On the news last night, Police Minister John Saldivar spoke about the stepped up police operations that have been launched in the wake of the weekend's seismic criminal events.

His presentation sounded to us kind of like Returning Again to the Same Solution and so, Saldivar and Commissioner David Henderson took out the media yesterday evening to show them the Static and roving vehicle check points and what they are calling a security corridor along Central American Boulevard and Princess Margret Drive.

Sounds impressive, but how did it look on the ground? Monica Bodden was out last night observing - and she has this report:..

Monica Bodden reporting
You may have noticed a boost in police presence on the ground in the city.

Well that is because there are roughly 7 checkpoints around town and at least 2-3 armed officers deployed in every area of interest. This should be continued for at least 2 weeks.

David Henderson - Acting Commissioner of Police
"We have at least 7 different check points within the city and then we have personnel deploy at all the noted areas or areas of interest where the gangs are likely to operate."

Monica Bodden
"These checks points will be going on for the rest of the week?"

David Henderson - Acting Commissioner of Police
"We will try to sustain it as long as possible until we could really get the crime into a controllable level."

The media was invited on a city tour yesterday evening - to join Minister of Security - Hon. John Saldivar and the acting commissioner.

As we made our way around to the various checkpoints and areas of concerns - our main objective was to see just how effective these ground operations are - which are costing the department tens of thousands of dollars to establish and maintain.

We must say, the massive police increase on the streets, does seem to create a sense of security for city residents - as we noticed life in the old capital was coming back to normal after a nerve wracking weekend.

Commissioner Henderson discussed the purpose of the ground operation.

David Henderson - Acting Commissioner of Police
"To show the media the police operation - what we are trying to achieve from this is to really close the area to contain the criminal and if there is any incident that we are able to respond quickly and deal with it as the case might be."

"By having the different check points it would make life much more difficult for them to move around the city because where ever you turn you would ran into security forces."

And while the police are doing their share, they are asking for everyone to join in the effort.

David Henderson - Acting Commissioner of Police
"We would like to ask the public to bear with us - to really give us full support because the police cannot really do it by itself, we need the community support and with the community support I am quite sure that we could definitely make Belize a much more safer place for everyone to live in. We need to work together in order to achieve our goal."

According to an official release, the measures have been in place from 4:00 pm yesterday. Check points are up throughout the City, at Hattieville, mile 4 on the Western highway, Boom junction and at the Manatee lookout area on the Northern highway.

Check Points are also up at the River crossings at Belcan and Bel China with lookout points at the approaches to the Swing Bridge. And the so-called security Corridor runs from the Esso Depot on Central American Boulevard to the UB Campus in Button Wood Bay where ATV's are assigned to patrol the area to ensure that Students and Workers can move freely. Additionally, over forty (40) BDF Soldiers were sworn in as Special Constables.

Key choke areas are manned especially in the vicinity of George Street, Taylors Alley, Rocky Road and MayFlower Street. To deal with the checkpoints, motorists are asked to have a valid driving license handy.

Channel 7

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Marty Offline OP
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Under Siege: Security Ministry brings B.D.F. to protect Belize City Streets

Following the weekend's reign of terror, the Ministry of National Security has taken the following measures to bring some normalcy to the streets in the old capital. Vehicle check points have been established throughout the City, on the highways, at Belcan and Bel China Bridges as well as lookout points at the approach to the Swing Bridge. The ministry says that a security Corridor is established along Central American Boulevard and Princess Margret Drive from the Esso Depot to UB Campus in Buttonwood Bay. Over forty Belize Defence Force Soldiers were sworn in as Special Constables to allow them to carry out their functions during this operation and search operations will be carried out in hot spots, including George Street, Taylors Alley, Rocky Road and Mayflower areas. the Ministry is also appealing to the public to be patient and to have IDs ready in light of the measures being put in place.

Channel 5

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Marty Offline OP
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Commoners Port Loyola on Friday the 27th at 2pm will be holding a press conference in the Santa Rita room at the Radisson Fort George. The press conference will provide commoners perspective on the recent wave of crime and violence. It will address causes and provide solutions. All media are invited.

Joined: Oct 1999
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Prime Minister Meets with Civil Society in Response to Crime

The Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. Dean Barrow, today convened a meeting with civil society to apprise them of the government's response to the recent increase in gang-related crime and the heightened tensions in Belize City.

In the meeting, the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Security, the Director of RESTORE Belize, and CEO in the Office of the Prime Minister presented the latest update on the current police operations to ensure citizen security and the way forward for maintaining peace. The Government then requested the cooperation and support from civil society to promote peace and to address the underlying social conditions which make our Belizean communities vulnerable to crime.

The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Francis Fonseca, and other representatives of the Opposition participated in the meeting as well as representatives from the religious community, the business community, the Crime Control Council, and the National Trade Union Congress of Belize. All expressed concern for the current levels of insecurity and all agreed that we need to unite as one nation to tackle crime and to resolve the social conditions which make communities vulnerable. The Government of Belize was also represented by the Ministers of the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation, and Poverty Alleviation, Hon. Anthony Martinez and Minister of State with responsibility for the Gang Truce and CYDP the Hon. Mark King, CEO in the Ministry of National Security, and the Police Department.

It was agreed that the Prime Minister would convene a meeting with this group of civil society representatives at least once per quarter. The Prime Minister expressed his gratitude to the Leader of Opposition for their solidarity and to all civil society representatives for their cooperation. The Prime Minister of Belize assures the general public that it will continue to invest all necessary resources to keep Belizean citizens safe and to work with all partners in the united effort to restore law and order and maintain peace.

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