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Jan 12, 2022

Police Department Takes Center Stage in Griga Town Meeting

A public meeting led by the Minister of Home Affairs was held this morning at the Dangriga Town Hall.  Present were area representatives for Stann Creek West and Dangriga, and Ministers Rodwell Ferguson and Doctor Louis Zabaneh.  Also in attendance was Dangriga Mayor Robert Mariano, himself a former Deputy Commissioner of Police.  The discussion centered around the rash of crimes reported in the Culture Capital recently which culminated in the murder of fifteen-year-old Joshua Flores last Thursday.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The recent spate of gun violence in Dangriga, a confluence of gang activity and coastal piracy, has prompted the Ministry of Home Affairs, and its accompanying agencies, to meet with residents to discuss the issue of citizen security.  It comes on the heels of a murder last week during which another male minor was shot and killed.  This morning, a town meeting was held and the concerns that were raised places the Belize Police Department at the heart of the conversation.


Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“One of the things we must accept is that the level of crime in Dangriga is unacceptable and it cannot be that we must sit down and accept things for what they are.  We owe it to the residents of Dangriga to do what we can to ensure their safety.”


…and that means hearing firsthand what the challenges are that residents are faced with.


Concerned Citizen

“Whenever you give information to the police, the same police that you give the information to will go and tell the criminal that you have given them information and your life and your life and your family life will be at stake.”


It is a situation that is most alarming, considering how small and close-knit the community is.  The erosion of confidence in law enforcement in Dangriga has given rise to a new level of criminality that the town has never experienced.


Ishmael “Massive’ Usher

Ishmael “Massive’ Usher, Dangriga Resident

“We have a major issue going on here and the major issue da out at the waters.  We need fi bring een di coastguard, we need fi bring een di Fisheries Department, you know, along with the Police Department and work on these issues.  These issues are even bigger than the issues weh we have here in Dangriga.”


What Ishmael Usher is referring to is the prevalence of criminal activity offshore.  The waters outside of Dangriga have become infested with pirates.  Last Thursday, a high-powered assault rifle was recovered at a home on Tobacco Caye.


Ishmael Usher

“What da one ah di major issue, I just explained that to come back to this what da one ah di major issue.  Dehn guys dehn di look fi zone now fi set the shades dehn, ah mean lobster deh da thirty-four, thirty-five dollars a pound, so everybody wahn go da sea now.  Soh when di criminal dehn cohn, dehn go out da sea and dehn woulda pull up pan yoh and look eena yoh boat and, “What? Weh di go ahn ya?”  Dehn wahn tek, actually take away your lobster you know, dis di happen da sea right now.  And believe it or not, dehn bwai noh di cohn wid no nine millimeter and .38, dehn have AK-47 aboard these small vessels.”


Coupled with rogue officers who are divulging sensitive information, including police reports, to the very same criminals these complaints are being made against, the situation is volatile.  The Dangriga Police Station, for all intents and purposes, has been infiltrated by criminal elements.


Kareem Musa

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs

“I turned to the commissioner almost immediately to say that something has to be done because time and time again, we’ve seen where individual police officers who hail from a particular community that they are, in some instances, not all, some instances they are either related to the criminal elements or friendly with the criminal elements and so we have to remove that sort of close alliance that has been created.  And that’s why, quite regularly throughout the year, we have transfer of police officers.  Whenever we hear of that happening, we have to make those transfers across the country.”


That means that the transfer of officers from Dangriga is imminent, but it is only part of a two-pronged approach to addressing the issue of crime and violence in the Culture Capital.


Chester Williams

“We have a number of police officers in Dangriga who are from Dangriga, they are too complacent, they know everybody and it is not helping us.  As much as yes, we would like to have our officers work home, having them work home must not be at the expense or the detriment of the wider community.”


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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