A ceasefire has been brokered between two Belize City gangs with a history of enmity that has seen many lives lost on both sides of that bitter rivalry. On Wednesday evening, the Leadership Intervention Unit, headed by William Dawson, brought together members of the PIV and Backa Lands gangs to iron out a peace treaty. The session came in the wake of Sunday’s deadly assault that claimed the life of seventeen-year-old Michael Henry and injured another person he was traveling with inside a vehicle en route to Belize City. Viewers would recall that neither of the groups in question was among those rounded up in the recent state of emergency, however, the fickle nature of the situation involving PIV and Backa Lands prompted to the unit to call them to mediation.  After a lengthy discussion, it was agreed that a truce is in order. News Five spoke with Dawson who is also the Director of Wagner’s Youth Facility at the Belize Central Prison.

William Dawson, Leadership Intervention Unit

“The Leadership Intervention Unit is taking an interagency approach, a collaborative approach and in that regard we are working very closely with the Belize Police Department, with Assistant Commissioner of [Police] Dr. Rosado and we’re actually working very closely with the Director of the Department of Youth Services, Mr. Kevin Cadle, and Human Development and Starla Bradley. And so, what has happened is that we had brought the young men together in a discussion to air out what it is that their differences are; what caused the disturbance between them and the way forward.”

Isani Cayetano

“What were some of the reactions or the positions taken by these individuals who met with you guys yesterday? I know that perhaps there are a lot of strong feelings in terms of the situation that has befallen either side of this rivalry.”

William Dawson

“Well it was a very tense situation yesterday. It was very emotional. As you are aware that the PIV and the Backa Lands group have been warring factions for many years and the BLC lost a familiar person to them, someone who they expressed grew up around them, who was not affiliated but they knew him very well. And that really struck them deeply because the young man got killed senselessly in their understanding and it really was a very emotional situation whereby there was a lot of back and forth. There were threats being hurled and at the end of the day what we did was allow them to air their differences and then we kicked in with the mediation strategies thereafter.”

Can a Truce Actually Hold?

An armistice between those feuding groups in Lake Independence is nothing new. In fact, over the years, we have covered several initiatives undertaken by the Belize Police Department, through the Mahogany Street Precinct, where both gangs have come together at Christmas time to give back to the community. So will a truce between Backa Lands and PIV actually work?

Isani Cayetano

“One could argue, perhaps from a cynical standpoint, that we’ve tried this several times over with these two particular groups in question and the situation is always so fragile that it only takes one particular incident for things to flare up and go back to status quo.”

William Dawson, Leadership Intervention Unit

“Well, you know, in this type of engagement there is no guarantee.  It’s like you said, a very fragile situation to deal with because something might present itself that gives off the wrong signal that creates a whole disturbance between these parties.  But what we were able to broker with both parties was a ceasefire and the interagency approach is offering assistance in terms of consistency and support for the young men and we want to make sure that we are there meeting with them regularly so that the relationship can build.  We want to build rapport between the different groups and so going forward we are looking at the commitments we have made to meet with each other twice a month, on a regular basis.  I can also tell you that the young men walked away creating a committee amongst themselves, committing to reach out whenever there is an issue arising so that the mediation can take place before violence is the solution.”

Channel 5