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Dec 12, 2012

Here comes the M.I.T., highway cops looking for contraband

It’s the time of year when contraband is at an all time high but there’s now a unit in place to monitor the highways and borders to curb the illegal trade; primarily from the Commercial Free Zone and neighboring Mexico. Twenty officers from the police, customs and immigration departments have completed training to combat the contrabandistas who, believe it or not, are mostly ex-military personnel. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has a report.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A cohort of twenty officers from various branches of law enforcement was the first to complete a five-week training course in checkpoint and patrol operations, as well as small unit tactics.  The group, comprised of members of the Belize Police Department, the Customs & Excise, as well as the Immigration and Nationality departments, forms a new unit known as the Mobile Interdiction Team.

 

U.S. Customs & Border Protection

“We have three different agencies involved.  It was a three-week, very intensive train up.  We covered an enormous amount of material in those three weeks.  It was also geared as kind of a train the trainer situation as well, this being the first class we wanted to establish some individuals in the class to help facilitate this training for future iterations.  That three-week train up ended with a two-week advisory role where we were actually out in the field with the guys from the MRT conducting operations in and around Belmopan and various areas in Belize.”

 

The introduction of the team, according to CEO George Lovell of the Ministry of National Security, is timely, especially since illegal activity involving the movement of contraband spikes in December.

 

George Lovell

Ret. Col. George Lovell, C.E.O., Ministry of National Security

“They do a lot of checkpoints training.  They do border interdiction type training which is quite common to what the police and customs do around this time of the year.  You will note that along the Northern Highway, from the border with Chetumal, we have a number of these checkpoints.  These teams, even though they may not be operating as deep as you would normally see the police and customs operating, would be doing similar type functions along our border.  What this will do, this will actually target all those criminal elements that are involved in contraband, that are involved in the illegal trafficking of drugs and personnel that occurs around the border regions.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“In terms of the equipment and the degree of expertise that has been bestowed upon them, do you think that they will be more effective going forward in carrying out these duties?”

U.S. Customs & Border Protection

“Absolutely.  And I know that.  Belize isn’t alone when it comes to limited assets, resources, things like that.  The United States, we’ve kind of helped facilitated this training.  We’ve not only given them the training but we’ve provided them with some gears and equipment to help complete their mission and I think that as a whole the MIT concept really represents a very, very powerful police organization.  You have components from again, the police, customs and immigration, all working together and using each other’s various authorities to their advantage in the pursuit of a common goal.”

 

The exercise, according to police constable Osmin Gabourel, prepares the officers for the daunting task of pursuing skilled ex-military personnel involved in illegal activity.

 

P.C. Osmin Gabourel, K9 Unit

“Most of these individuals running contraband are highly-trained military personnel. So with that type of training we can combat them without really having any problem.”

 

The Mobile Interdiction Team, which has been gifted with four patrol vehicles and a supply of tactical equipment, has already been deployed into the field. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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14 Responses for “Here comes the M.I.T., highway cops looking for contraband”

  1. Joe says:

    Good job US DHS. stay in Belize we need you there.

  2. Ricky Malthus says:

    What has happened to the once calm and halcyon days of living in Belize? With advice of USA, Belize created the Commercial Free Zone in Corozal to boost trade but it seems this concept is imploding on itself and the country has not benefitted except the politicians, the incompetent managers, and the USA. The USA gains local foot soldiers at a fraction of the price to spy on drug trafficking. What does the Joe Public Belizean get ? Inflated prices on goods and services, extra tariffs by Customs, and further intrusion in private lives of Belizean and bad public relations as a heavily militarized, drug infested haven. By comparison, tiny Belize has more DEA, Customs, plain clothes military, and undercover agents than Tijuana. I am making an educated guess that the thinking up top is that it is better to contain the illegal activities here in Belize than confront them at USA-Mexico borders. What a riddle !! Free Zone versus GST. Can anyone make the connection? My fellow Belizeans, you are being taken for a sucker’s ride. Lets have some analytics and no emotions in thinking this through.

  3. borntobehero says:

    a good accomplishment by Ministry of National Security and thanks to uncle Sam, for helping. is a good day for Belize. But can we also focus tours the crime that many families are grieving their loved ones this days too. Please and Thanks.

  4. sue29 says:

    It does not matter what type of training they give these people the contraband will never stop because the custom officers are the same ones contra-banding liquor and cigarettes from the free zone.

  5. BA in cali says:

    As a belizean living in the US dreaming of one day living again in Belize. this is not what we look forward to.In the US every were you go there no privacy, the US are imposing all this on Belize. Belizean the US in not a free country anymore, regulations are killing the US everywhere you go you are under the eyes of the great uncle sam. You PAY for everything, in a county here in california you can’t dig a hole on the beach,in the sand you get fine that what has became of the great USA welcome to the USA BELIZE.

  6. Coro_Man says:

    You are right sue29, the custom officers are the biggest contra-bandistas…….. and when the poor belizean cross the checkpoint they confiscate from a small pack of chicken consome, but they are living the high life. Look at any custom officer and they own 2 houses or more all over the country, 2 vehicles or more and all because of their corruption. And you guess right nobody does anything about them or cares what they do. Maybe the FIU should start investigating the Customs Dept.

  7. Storm says:

    The story says, “the contrabandistas who, believe it or not, are mostly ex-military personnel.” Who is ex-military — police, contrabandistas, or both?

    I actually applaud the formation of an elite unit with elite training and equipment and American-style physical fitness. I just wish we had more, more, more training for police everywhere in the Jewel.

    Maybe a couple of these MIT fellows can be assigned to train more cadres, so improvement can spread within the police ranks.

    There needs to be a publicly-stated policy about what to do when this special squad encounters ministers, mayors, and their families with cars and SUVs full of contraband, bringing it back duty-free for their own profit. Is that a crime, or shall our aristocracy officially be above the law? I’d like PM Barrow to clarify his position on that for us all.

  8. ceo says:

    Coro Man you are correct but this happens because there is no one watching them. There is no way on their salary they can live that type of life. It is then obvious that they are on the take. So we the people are wondering why no one is doing anything to solve the real problem?

    Start by investigating the enforcement guys; this is where the problem lies!

  9. Hi5 says:

    @Ba in Cali, couldn’t agree more. Middle class gets screw in the US…. My plan is to go back home and live in a tax free country. I payed just to go fishing.

  10. Rod says:

    The biggest contrabandistas are the gov. From the pm down didn’t they just catch the mayor and his family contra banding liqueur and beer and guess they were caught red handed and not one of them was even arrested much less put in jail the same people who are making the laws are the ones committing all the crimes no wonder every crook in Belize is seeing this and the are saying well if the ministers can thief. Why not us no wonder this whole country is in the drain we need honest people in gov. And surely this gov. Has none. Why didn’t the dea catch the mayor and his family are they in it too makes you wonder.

  11. b.Jones says:

    All of the new initiatives are great, but how much sense do they make when the conviction rates of the DPP are beyond atrocious? After seeing the same individuals drive by as free birds, again and again, after getting caught red-handed, what do you think will happen to the morale & integrity of these elite soldiers ? These questions should have been answered b4 this program was implemented. The more arrest and next to no convictions leads to only chaos. Belize is heading for a slope which is so slippery she will never be able to recover. Something major must occur NOW/SOON or else Belize is doomed to become another Honduras or a baby Mexico…So Sad

  12. Elvis Cano says:

    Ay Caramba!! more vultures getting rich!!! all they will do is take the contraband and have a great Christmas Party. Don’t be such naive!! Corruption at it’s best!!!!!

  13. Eye in the Sky says:

    Looking for contraband ?

    Just check the house of each and every customs agent in Belize.

    You will find Mexican beer, duty free liquore and much more.

    Politicians too are living duty free and are untoouchable.

    So the poor man will suffer more in Belize under the USA & UDP

  14. jack says:

    I sure hope the M.I.T. will have authority over the ministers. They are crossing truck loads of beer at La Union.

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