Police will search “any and all houses … without the need for a warrant”! – National Security Minister John Saldivar
Juvenile offenders “for even misdemeanors and petty crimes” will be isolated at Mountain Pine Ridge, under BDF guard
Minister of National Security John Saldivar announced at the Second Business Forum held at Old Belize today that the Commissioner of Police, David Henderson, “will be invoking today the declaration of several crime-infested areas of Belize City as ‘crime-ridden’ areas,” giving power to security forces “to search any or all houses in the area without the need for a warrant” and “allowing them to restrict movement in and out of” specific areas that will be cordoned off.
“Every person entering and exiting the area will be searched,” said Saldivar. “A systematic house-by-house search of these areas will be done with immediate effect…”
Amandala contacted Commissioner Henderson for further information. He confirmed to our newspaper that the operation has kicked off today, and would cover “quite a number of areas,” but he declined to comment on details and ended the call when we were probing, saying he had a call on another line.
Today, the Minister of National Security conceded that in recent weeks, another crime wave has been sweeping the city. He also conceded that at the time of his party’s reelection this year, the gang truce “was at advanced state of deterioration.”
According to the minister, March and May saw a spike of 17 % in major crimes, particularly in the Belize, Cayo, and Corozal Districts, with that period recording 709 major crimes, 119 more than in 2011.
Meanwhile, Saldivar pointed to a 6.4% reduction in major crimes from June to September: 901 major crimes reported versus 1070 for the same period last year.
Recently, he added, we have been experiencing one of those spikes in crimes which have the effect of eroding any appearance of even limited success in the fight against crime. This, said the minister, has caused them to step back and revisit their crime-fighting approach.
“Security forces have since yesterday been deployed in ‘crime ridden’ areas,” Saldivar reported. He said that there is now a visible presence by security forces in these areas and he asks the cooperation and understanding of the public during the security forces operation.
Meanwhile, special operations on weekends have grown into seven-day operations, the minister said.
These operations have been successful in stemming the regular weekend spate that used to fill Monday night newscasts, said Saldivar. As a result, he said, criminals have since shifted their activities to weekdays and broad daylight.
Police have, consequently, stepped up patrols, and 6 ATVS with police and Belize Defence Force (BDF) officers have been deployed on a daily basis, along with special foot patrols.
Additionally, said the National Security Minister, vehicle checkpoints are being strategically placed across the city to intercept criminals, and the security personnel have a list of names and pictures of “persons of interest” who, said Saldivar “will be detained and held for questioning as often and as long as it takes for police to conduct proper investigations into the many unsolved crimes that are under investigation.”
The usual Christmas special duties are being stepped up as of today, the minister furthermore said. The plan, he added, is to increase police and BDF presence by 25%.
“As of today, police are under instructions to begin to crack down on all those who commit petty offences and organized crimes…,” he said.
He said that the Director of Public Prosecutions has also been asked to petition the courts for stiffer conditions for bail and even the denial of bail for repeat offenders. The minister made a public call to the courts to impose stiffer penalties and conditions for bail, and to even begin denying bail to habitual criminals.
A special facility will be opened in the Mountain Pine Ridge area, operated by the BDF, for juvenile offenders, even those who are convicted of misdemeanors and petty crimes, he announced.
The cost of the new measures, said Saldivar, is in excess of $100,000 weekly.