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Jun 9, 2021

Multi-Sector Approach to Combating Gang Violence

The Briceño administration says it will not be negotiating with the gangs.  It’s a position that the prime minister himself has made abundantly clear.  But that is not to say that gang violence will be left unchecked, or that services to improve gang members lives won’t be made available. What will be implemented is a three-pronged, multi-sectoral approach.  Whether the new strategy aimed at curbing gang-related homicides will prove effective remains to be seen.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano takes a look at the existing situation.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A recent flare up of gang violence in Belize City has prompted an intervention from stakeholders in law enforcement, as well as the penal system.  A rash of homicides in May was attributed to rivalries among several groups of criminals.  In the wake of those incidents, Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, along with Nuri Muhammad and Abdul Nunez, of the Behavioral Modification and Conflict Management Services, formerly the Conscious Youth Development Program, sat down with twenty-seven young men in an attempt to broker a ceasefire.  On Friday, a leadership intervention program was held to explore meaningful ways in which the issue of gang violence can be addressed at all levels.  Leading the charge is William Dawson.


William Dawson

William Dawson, Director, Wagner’s Youth Facility

“Being the director of the Wagner’s Youth Facility at the Belize Central Priso, I’m privy to work with the young men who have been sent from the court to the prison for committing major offenses and over the past four or five years we’ve been able to actually collect data that proves that an adequate support system and good programmatic guidance really assists these juveniles in turning around their behavioral patterns, their lifestyle and improving their literacy.”


Regrettably, many of these killings are carried out by teenage minors.


William Dawson

“We cannot continue to ignore the fact also that many of these murders that are happening are being committed by young men below the age of eighteen years old and unfortunately they come to the Wagner’s Youth Facility.”


Chester Williams

From a law enforcement perspective, a similar mediation exercise was held on the weekend of May twenty-third.  Coming out of that meeting, ComPol Williams said that the time for talking is done.


Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police [File: May 25th, 2021]

“I still think something more drastic needs to be done for these gang members to understand, your behavior has become intolerable and, as such, drastic actions must be taken against you.  We will see how that plays out and we will monitor the situation and see how this goes.  And I have said to them in the mediation session that this is the last talk.  If it continues, we are not going to sit down and talk anymore, something else will be done.”


Prime Minister John Briceño has also weighed in on the matter.  While he is against sitting down with the gangs, the PM acknowledges that there are several initiatives to provide employment.  The bloodbath, he says, is the result of a desire for self-destruction.


John Briceño

Prime Minister John Briceño [File: June 8th, 2021]

“You can’t stop people who want to kill themselves.  As much as we would not want that to happen, these people have a death wish and they are going after one another.  As much as we put the police on the streets and try to monitor them as closely as possible, they find ways.  So, we just have to be going aggressively at them and trying to, whenever we get guns off the street or get some of these guys off the street; doing more community policing so that we can get better intelligence to be able to address that issue.”


According to Dawson, compared to public opinion that gangs are feuding primarily over drugs and territory, some of the biggest fallouts are actually over trivial matters that get blown out of proportions.


William Dawson

“A lot of what happens in the street, contrary to the belief that they are killing each other for drugs, sometimes these issues start from petty arguments, what we call in Belize, hearsay or “yerisoh”, people carrying wrong information and to some extent, I will tell you, even influential individuals without getting into specifics, who carry misinformation to these guys and what they term as used them when it’s convenient to do certain task for them.  And so they are coming out clear, saying that they just want it all to stop and so mediation is a key factor in all of this and it comes down to our culture of masculinity.”


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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