Following the publication of an Extraordinary Gazette last week, dated November 8, 2012, the Crime Control and Criminal Justice (Special Areas) (Belize City) Order, 2012, which declares five Southside Belize City zones for special security forces operations—including warrantless searches—is now in full effect and the order will last for a maximum of 30 days.
As the accompanying map shows, the five special areas, declared “crime-ridden” under Part IV of the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act [Special Provisions for Crime-Ridden Areas], are all located on the City’s Southside and west of Central American Boulevard, in the St. Martin De Porres area.
The accompanying map gives a visual of where these “special areas” – as small as a block – are located.
More specifically, the order details that “special area 1 or zone 1 encompasses all that area north of Garbutt Street, west of Giles Street, south of Cumberbatch Street and east of MY Street, north of M and M Street and west of Garbutt Street.
“Special area 2 or zone 2 encompasses all that area south of Police Street Extension, east of the junction of Linda Vista Street and the [George Price Highway], and west of Lacroix Boulevard.
“Special area 3 or zone 3 encompasses all that area south of Holy Emmanuel Street, west of Lacroix Boulevard, north of Police Street extension and east of Emma Street.
“Special area 4 or zone 4 encompasses all that area to include south of Lavender Street, east of Jasmine Street, north of Croton Lane, east of Flamboyant Street and West of Oleander Street [and]…
“Special area 5 or zone 5 encompasses all that area north of Poinsetta Street, east of Black Orchid Street, west of Causarina Street and south of Mahogany Street.”
The orders came into effect with the signing of Statutory Instrument (SI) #94 of 2012 by Erwin Contreras, who at the time was Acting Minister of National Security.
The SI says that the minister made the order with the concurrence of the Crime Control Council, in exercise of the powers conferred upon him by section 12 of the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act.
With the order in place, the security forces—police and their military support officers—can conduct “search of any premises, place, vehicle, person or thing upon reasonable suspicion of being thereon or therein any unlawful drug or any unlicensed or prohibited firearm or ammunition, or any unlawfully obtained article or thing, or any person wanted in connection with a criminal investigation…”
The order also gives security forces the power to “…seize, take away and detain any vehicle or article which he reasonably suspects is intended to be used, or has been used, for or in connection with the commission of any offence or is or has been unlawfully obtained or possessed…”
There are also expanded powers of arrest, as the order empowers the security forces to “…arrest any person upon reasonable suspicion of his having committed or of being about to commit an offence; and temporarily establish a cordon around the special area or any part thereof for a period not exceeding three hours in any period of twenty-four hours and restrict the freedom of movement of persons and vehicles into or out of any area so cordoned.”
Chairman of the Crime Control Council, Michael Young, SC, told Amandala that fundamentally the Crime Control Council was concerned about the effect the police operation would have primarily on citizens’ rights, but both the Police Department representative and the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Natural Resources assured Council members that officers would be professional in carrying out their operations.
Young said that Crime Control Council members also expressed concerns that so many times, special police operations increase the height of the dividing wall between the police and the community. The council stressed the need for better relations between police and law-abiding citizens.