Police and Residents of Conch Shell Bay Hope to Solve Deadly Feud
Gun violence in the area of Conch Shell Bay in the Old Capital has seen a sharp spike since the start of the year. Murders and shootings connected to feuding gang factions in a drug war have placed the community under the microscope so much so that police plan to beef up their presence in the area. On New Year’s Day, Collin Sutherland was murdered; within weeks, brothers Clinton and Michael Frazer were shot; Clinton succumbed shortly after. Days later, Keimar Nicholas was shot to the neck and remains paralyzed at the K.H.M.H. And then on Monday, Jaheel Goodger was targeted as he rode his bicycle in the area. Today, the department announced the approach they are taking to cool things down. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
The Conch Shell Bay community is well-known for its thriving fishing industry. The riverside neighborhood is often frequented by residents and visitors passing through in search of a deal on the day’s catch. Since the beginning of the year however, the vicinity has become a war zone where feuding groups have exacted hatred for each other in blood. At the heart of their beef is the lucrative drug trade. On one side of West Canal is territory that is reportedly controlled by affiliates of a particular Belize City gang. The other side of that waterway is ran by their rivals. The recent spate of shootings is largely the result of the ongoing enmity.
ACP Chester Williams, Regional Commander, Eastern Division South
“Of recent, we have been going into both areas with a view to see how we can work with the community to bridge that divide that existed between them. You know it is always difficult when you have in-house rivalries between people.”
Over the years, the once trouble-free area has evolved into a concentration of peddlers, each working for one of two factions laying claim over the neighborhood. The violent contact has made life for residents here a living hell.
“The affiliation, the violence is right in between the community and it’s a small community fi have this type of reaction. It’s a community that’s never been in this state of reaction.”
Indeed, Conch Shell Bay is a small community, one that has seen as many as four shooting incidents involving five persons. Two of those confrontations had fatal consequences.
“Policing the situation is always a difficult task so what we have been doing to see how we can quell the situation between these two communities is to see how best we can reach out to the community members through community meetings.”
Those interactions have included the participation of Area Representative Tracy Panton. On Tuesday, the Belize Police Department brought together a number of residents from Ebony Street Extension to discuss the sudden rise in gun violence. A similar meeting was held a day later with another group.
“I must say that the attendance was great and we had one for the Conch Shell Bay community yesterday evening, right here at the Raccoon Street conference room. That again, the turnout was great and in both community meetings we were able to express to the community members what it is that we are doing in the respective communities to make it more safer for them. We also took suggestions and ideas from them as to what they believe we can do to be able to make their community safer.”
On Monday, News Five learned that nineteen-year-old Keimar Nicholas, who was injured in a near-fatal attack one week earlier, is paralyzed from the neck down. The bullet that struck him has damaged his spinal cord. He too is a victim of the fallout. Shadheed Haulze, a resident of the area, has a message for his feuding neighbors.
Shadheed Haulze, Friend of Keimar Nicholas
“The message weh I wahn send to them is just to try to keep the peace, shake hands with each other, you know, talk to each other and put down the violence, put down the gun, you know, because through ya was a peaceful neighborhood. I don’t know how ih get this way, you know.”
Whatever triggered this deadly outcome is also serving to unite the community. The leadership of the area representative is being tested. Her input thus far in helping to establish a neighborhood watch has been valuable.
ACP Chester Williams
“I must say that I am very happy to have the support of Honorable Tracy Panton. She has been very instrumental with us in the Conch Shell Bay area and she also attended the meeting with us yesterday and she too had her message to the committee members to give them that reassurance from her standpoint that what she can do working in collaboration with us in the Conch Shell Bay community.”
Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.