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Oct 23, 2017

As Murder Count Threatens Record Again, Police Dig in Heels against Gangs

With this weekend’s murders, the count for 2017 according to News Five’s unofficial statistics now stands at one hundred and twenty, just twenty-five off the count for 2012, the most murderous year in Belize’s existence. As many as twenty-seven of those murders have taken place in Belize City, many on the southside. In the House of Representatives’ discussion on the adjournment on Friday, Lake Independence representative Cordel Hyde linked the spike to the much-discussed change of command in July. Assistant Commissioner Chester Williams, who prided himself on community policing and mediation between gangs and feuding persons, handed over to Senior Superintendent Marco Vidal, who enforces an anti-crime approach first and foremost. So what has broken down, and how will it be fixed? Substantive Minister of Police Wilfred Elrington pointed the finger squarely at the gangs themselves and their enablers, and announced a serious crackdown in an effort to not only reduce the crime statistics but to return the blood-soaked Southside to law and order. Aaron Humes reports.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

For Lake Independence’s Cordel Hyde, it appears only one man – and his band of helpers – can solve the morass of murders on Belize City’s Southside.

 

Cordel Hyde

Cordel Hyde, Area Representative, Lake Independence

“Some people don’t like Chester Williams. Some people complain about how he talks, how he is on TV too much, and that he has a lot to say, and some people may not like the style of policing, have some difficulties with it; but at the end of the day, something was working there. In the months leading up to his departure from Belize City to a desk job in Belmopan, there was a kind of peace in Belize City we hadn’t seen in many, many years. And then he departs for Belmopan at the beginning of July and the peace is shattered.”

 

There have been twenty-seven murders by our count in Belize City alone since July first, with San Pedro coming in next at six if the unrelated Faye Lin Cannon case is not included. Nearly all have taken place on the Southside, and particularly the constituencies of Lake Independence, Pickstock, and Port Loyola. But it is no secret, according to Pickstock representative and substantive Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Elrington, why.

 

Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Home Affairs

“It is being conducted largely because there is minimal assistance, particularly in the member’s constituency, for the poor people who live back there. They have very little direction.  The evidence is showing, Madam Speaker, and the nation needs to know it, that there’s a new trend with respect to the marijuana trade. Marijuana is much more expensive. It is being imported into the country and people are given amounts to sell. And when they don’t account for the proceeds, the record is suggesting that that is when these people are being executed and they are being executed by their own associates, their own friends.”

 

Wilfred Elrington

As for the Police Department, Elrington insisted that no one man, not even Williams, can individually cure the Southside’s ills. It calls for a “super-team” – one Elrington said the Department is assembling, and headed by a manager whom he considered competent, if not exceptional.

 

Wilfred Elrington

“Like in football, like in basketball, like in any other game where you have a number of people, it’s the team that matters not the individual. No super player is going to see you to victory, it is a super team. I think we have the makings of a super team in the Belize police force. The Commissioner is a very intelligent man, very articulate. I was really impressed with him; he has a different style from other police commissioners but as I am saying to you, when you look at the record, I guarantee you that his performance isn’t any worse than any of the others.”

 

That “manager” told us a few weeks ago that crime ebbs and flows, as do opinions. He assured us that he is on the ball and aiming for success.

 

Allen Whylie

Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police [File: October 4th, 2017]

“And I disagree with you in terms of saying that the administration since I have been Commissioner has not been of the best, because during my four years and counting, we’ve had ups and downs in terms of crime. We have seen crime, especially murder being at its lowest peak; we’ve never had it to the highest peak although we have been there. But we have to understand there is ebb and flow and cycles of crimes. I cannot concern myself in terms of the naysayers – I have got to remain focused on the task at hand, and it’s a huge task; it’s not a task that anyone can doubt themselves. We are two thousand strong and of course, there are other persons within the department who has their own ambitions and I respect that, but as the Commissioner of Police, I will remain focused on the task at hand.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

Also mentioned in Elrington’s House address were plans to actively remove guns off the streets and extend the level of training for police officers, as well as a reminder to the public to assist the Police where they can by providing tips and information to bring in offenders.

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