|Villagers all marched peacefully against crime.|
One and all joined in in protest.
|The sign says it all.|
For months residents in Caye Caulker have been up in arms with the crime situation that they face on the peaceful fishing and tourist village. But the hair that broke the camel’s back was the gruesome murder of Lorleen Young which shook the residents on the evening of October 1st. Following that incident, the Caye Caulker Neighborhood Watch Program Limited (CCNWPL) issued a release inviting people to take part in a protest. Last Thursday, October 9th, hundreds of residents, students and stakeholders in the tourism industry took to the streets demanding that the government address the crime situation which they stated is “out of control” on the island. Together they marched through the principal streets of the village and joined their voices claiming, “Enough is enough.”
Hundreds of residents gathered at Central Park holding placards which displayed messages voicing their loud thoughts; “Stop crime now!”, “Stop the violence; make our island safer!”, “Bring back peace and love to the island!” and “Hicaqueños, protejamos nuestra isla!” Led by CCNWPL, the islanders marched through the streets all shouting, “What do we want? Justice!”
The Chairperson of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) Caye Caulker Branch, Louis Aguilar also took part in spearheading the march. According to Aguilar the crime has been allowed to continue. Aguilar told The Sun that, “we have been receiving a lot of reports from our BTIA members, from hoteliers, restaurants, and from other individuals stating that they have been the victims of robbery by culprits taking items out of their properties. We have written to everyone that you can think about expressing our frustration. We have also written to our Area Representative but our requests have fallen on deaf ears. Crime is killing our tourism industry on this island and the police are not doing anything to address the situation.”
Similarly, local islander and Senior Justice of the Peace Eduardo Reyes stated that he decided to join the protest to voice the same sentiment that enough is enough. “I am out here to support justice and fight against crime because it has gotten out of hand on our island,” stated Reyes. “It seems that there is not a strong command of the police on the island. We need someone that is firm in handling the police squad out here. We know that the police are taking bribes and this should not be so,” stated a frustrated Reyes.
According to the press release issued by CCNWPL, they demand a full and immediate replacement of all members of the Caye Caulker Police Department as this police contingent […] has had the worst performance ever in the history of Caye Caulker.
Assistant Commissioner of Police David Henderson was at Caye Caulker observing the protest as it passed in front of the police station. According to ACP Henderson the police will do what is necessary. “First of all you can’t say everybody (Police) is bad. Not because one incident occurred you want everybody (Police) to go. As the person responsible for Eastern Division we will make the necessary inquiry, we will look at the situation and we will do what is necessary,” stated Henderson.
Also present for the march was Area Representative of Belize Rural South Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr. According to Heredia, while residents claim that complaints have fallen on deaf ears, the government is indeed trying to do something. “People have a right to express themselves but we are trying to work in addressing the crime situation. To say that complaints have fallen on deaf ears is unfair. What I am saying is that I cannot do everything. I have asked the Minister responsible for Police that we would like for all the police officers in Caye Caulker to be changed since that is the request of most of the people on the island.”
Honorable Heredia could not give a specific deadline as to when the officers would be changed. He stated however that the Minister in charge of the Police Department has promised to cooperate with the demands made by the islanders. The peaceful protest ended at the Caye Caulker Central Park where many residents and local activists got the opportunity to address the crowd.
Residents demanded justice in solving the murder of Lorleen Young. Over the weekend, Orange Walk Police arrested a suspect wanted in connection with Young’s murder. According to Inspector Selvin Tillet of the Orange Walk Police Formation, based on a wanted poster circulated by the Caye Caulker police, officers spotted and arrested Edgar Coronado also known as “Campari” for questioning. Coronado was arrested last Friday night on Main Street in front of the Scotia Bank in Orange Walk Town and escorted to Caye Caulker. On Wednesday, October 13th, the Officer in Charge of the Caye Caulker Police Station, Sergeant Dirk Dyer explained to The Sun that even though they have detained Coronado for questioning, he could not confirm whether Coronado would be charged for the murder. When asked why, Sergeant Dyers stated that Coronado is just one of two main suspects and investigation into the murder continues.