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Jul 8, 2020

Deconstructing the Need for a Second Anti-gang SOE

The south side of the Old Capital was quiet today and free of gang activity.  A second curfew that will last for a month has been instituted and the police is coming down hard on gang activity.  In an early morning sweep on Tuesday, police detained a number of alleged gang members and are actively looking for additional individuals who they suspect have been causing mayhem in the neighbourhoods.  Police believe that the previous S.O.E. helped the security forces to curtail gang-related crime, especially murders. News Five’s Isani Cayetano takes a further look into the new state of emergency and what it means for south side residents. 


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Another state of emergency is in effect for south side Belize City, a geographic region covering the territories of ten local gangs.  Members of these criminal outfits were initially rounded up and locked away at the Belize Central Prison back in March when the threat of a first wave of COVID-19 loomed heavy over the country.  In the wake of another operation executed in the early hours of Tuesday, ninety-nine individuals belonging to those various groups will return to Hattieville where they will remain for a thirty day period.


Isani Cayetano

“What do you foresee to be the impact, the economic impact of having to put away these guys for another extended period of time and it comes at the expense of the public purse?”


Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte, Minister of National Security

“Well I would say it’s far more expensive to have people die on a daily basis and that’s what we were headed for.  The information we received was that the second murder was a retaliation and there would be further retaliations.  Now all the investigative work and trying to solve the problem from a philosophical point of view is the best solution but that takes too much time.”


…and that’s time the government does not have since lives would be lost in the interim.  Instead, the Ministry of National Security has opted once again to go with the quick fix which some may argue is simply a band-aid solution.


Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“The public is now seeing what it is that we are doing to address the issues of these gang members who are putting our people in fear.  And I want to sound the message that the entire south side Belize City is declared as a state of emergency area.  While at this time we are not going after everybody because we need to be fair to those who were in prison before, in the first state of emergency and since then they came out and they are truly walking a straight line.”


In the previous state of emergency, one individual from the South Side Gang, or S.S.G., had been incarcerated and four from the Ghost Town Crips were locked up as well.  A majority of gang members who were detained came from P.I.V., followed closely by George Street.  At the time, S.S.G. and Ghost Town were not feuding.  According to police, a gun deal gone awry is the reason for the recent flare up of tensions, but the dragnet will result in the arrests of over a hundred gang members.


Chester Williams

“In terms of the amount of persons being targeted, we have well over a hundred persons that we are targeting, but that over hundred persons that we are targeting, not all of them will end up in prison.  I am sure that the amount to go to prison this time is going to be less than those that went in the previous state of emergency.  So at the end of the day what we want to ensure that we go after only those who are the problem at this time.”


Of the previous detainees that were locked up in March, fifty-three percent were young men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five.  Of particular note is that by ethnicity, ninety-four percent of all detainees were of Creole descent based on statistics provided by the Kolbe Foundation.  In carrying out the raid on Tuesday morning, there were some individuals who managed to escape arrest.


Marco Vidal

ACP Marco Vidal, Operations Commander

“There are some who started to flee the area but we had vehicle checkpoints in the districts and that allowed for us to apprehend three this morning in the Belmopan area.  During the operation we also had several drug seizures, as well as one firearm which is an AK-47 and some ammunition.  So the persons who were detained in Belmopan will eventually be brought into Belize City and they fall under the S.O.E., as stipulated in the regulations.”


In speaking with News Five off-camera, members of the P.I.V. gang expressed their frustration with what transpired during the predawn raid.  They claim to not be part of the recent feud that sparked over the weekend and that they are being targeted unjustly.


Michael Peyrefitte

“There may be some who are detained who may not be giving trouble at this time and so they will go through the interview with the gang taskforce, C.I.B. and once it is that we are sure that they are not a part of the problem, they will be released.  I can assure the Belizean people that anybody, including the gang member who is not a part of the current problem will not go to prison.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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