Headline — 24 October 2014 — by Kareem Clarke
5th stolen GOB Hilux intercepted, but driver escaped

BELMOPAN–If not for the efforts of employees and security personnel from the National Institute for Culture and History (NICH)’s Belmopan office today, the Government of Belize, through one of its statutory bodies, would have been out of another white Toyota Hilux pickup truck, which became the subject of an attempted theft orchestrated by a cunning robber who appears to be swift as well.

Dave Griffith, an employee of NICH, told Belmopan police that they were preparing to go on a trip to Lamanai in Orange Walk Town this morning, but when the vehicle’s driver went downstairs and outside to get the vehicle, he was baffled by the fact that there was an empty space where the truck had previously been parked.

The employee said that the incident happened rather quickly, but when he looked outside, he noticed the vehicle being driven out of the compound, and thought that it was the official driver, with whom he was supposed to travel, who had been leaving in the vehicle. He was to find out, however, that the truck was being daringly stolen from in front of the office in broad daylight and in plain view.

Griffith said that when he realized what had happened, he got into his personal vehicle and set chase after the truck, which had already been making its way to the George Price Highway, traveling west in the direction of San Ignacio.

At that time, Griffith got in touch with authorities from Belmopan, one of whom happened to spot the stolen Hilux heading towards San Ignacio.

Police quickly sprang into action and set up a checkpoint near Georgeville on the George Price Highway, while Griffith and other mobile patrols continued trailing behind.

They managed to catch up with the truck at the checkpoint in Georgeville; however, the culprit behind the wheels drove off the highway and onto a feeder road through some bushes and slipped away from authorities.

By then, another driver for NICH who had been on another site visit near Ontario, called Griffith to tell him that he saw the vehicle coming up through the village.

Griffith then asked the driver to follow the vehicle until he saw the police, but when the driver of the stolen vehicle noticed that he still was being pursued, he took a turn, got out of the vehicle, ran into some bushes, and escaped.

Superintendent Howell Gillett, the Officer in Charge of Belmopan police, later told the media that this latest vehicle heist would have been on record as the fifth Government vehicle to be stolen from the Capital in the past three months.

He said, “We immediately sprang into action [because] we had a plan based on the past incidents that we had in the Belmopan area, and that plan was immediately put into operation.

We partnered with Benque Viejo, San Ignacio, and Spanish Lookout police, along with several units from within Belmopan and staff members from the Archaeology Department, specifically NICH. We followed the vehicle from Belmopan onto somewhere in Georgeville, where our checkpoint attempted to stop the vehicle; [however] the vehicle made an abrupt turn and the driver escaped.

“We had the use of the K-9 unit – the dogs – they were there to track the person, but we were not successful. Up until this time, we still have not captured this person, but we know who we are looking for, and much DNA was left inside the vehicle, so that even helps to fortify his identity, so we will call on this person to deliver himself to the nearest police station, or best to the Belmopan Police Station, as we are the ones doing the investigation.”

Gillett went on to state, “This incident will no doubt help us to solve some of the other thefts of motor vehicles that have been reported since this year began. We believe that this driver will be an asset to our investigation.”

As was stated, four vehicles – all late model Toyota Hilux pickup trucks – have been heisted from at least three government departments, including the Ministry of Health.

The last theft occurred just two weeks ago, between October 9 and 10, when a white 2014 Toyota Hilux with diplomatic license plates, valued at $47,000, was stolen from the compound of OIRSA, an intergovernmental department, which is located on the Agricultural Show Grounds at Mile 1 on the Hummingbird Highway.

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