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Belize and Cayo districts back under SOE

GeneralBelize and Cayo districts back under SOE

Photo: Police conducting SOE operations

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Tues. June 25, 2024

This morning, the Belize Police Department (BPD) and the Belize Defence Force (BDF) were out in full force as the country launched its second State of Emergency (SOE) for the year. This latest SOE covers specific areas in both the Belize and Cayo districts, including the north and south sides of Belize City and the Roaring Creek and Cotton Tree villages in the Cayo District.

The decision to impose this SOE follows a troubling increase in violence over the past two weeks, with numerous shootings and at least two murders occurring in the Lake Independence area and other parts of Belize City.

With operations commencing since yesterday, police have made significant progress, arresting at least two individuals on murder charges.

“One was arrested for the murder of Elwin Lewis, which took place a couple of months ago. That person had been on the run for a number of months, and we were able to locate him yesterday. And we also charged, I think, Marquis Conorque for the murder of the guy Moore who was killed on Sunday during the day. So, those two individuals were captured as part of this operation,” Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams explained.

In addition to these arrests, police have apprehended several other individuals wanted in connection with various investigations. They have also recovered several firearms and ammunition in both districts. Notably, among the recent shooting victims in Belize City was Doris Grant, who has been frequently mentioned in the media for alleged land fraud, and her partner, Austin Underwood. The couple was targeted after leaving a concert by the Trinidadian duo, TriniBad, on June 15.

Commissioner Williams has since attributed the surge in violence to this concert, suggesting that the performers’ reputation for promoting violence in other parts of the Caribbean contributed to the SOE. “They cannot DJ in most parts of the Caribbean because of the type of music that they promote. Anywhere TriniBad goes and plays, or whatever they do, there are murders. That’s their reputation. And why do we have to bring them here when we already have a society that is vulnerable to gangs?” he stated.

Concert host and member of the event’s organizing team, Winston Harris, also known as Brick City, criticized the Commissioner’s comments, however.

“In the position that we are at now, the ComPol will blame anybody and anything for the crime situation. The crime situation was before the concert and will be there after the concert. The reality is that nobody could influence anybody to do anything they don’t want to do. This crime is a personal and internal issue that has grown to where it is now. This is not the first time they are doing a State of Emergency, and this is not the first time the ComPol is trying to find someone to blame,” he argued. “The reality is the police know who the key players in this gang war are, so now to blame it on music or these DJs? The police need to go on the internet and do their research and will see that they have not been banned from any part of the Caribbean,” he went on to say.

The Opposition Leader, Hon. Shyne Barrow, also expressed his disagreement with Williams’ comments during his latest press conference, arguing that music brings people together, and should not be blamed for the violence. “Music brings people together. Music is an opportunity. Blaming the artists, blaming the musicians, saying that it’s a DJ’s fault, and the promoter who is trying to make an honest living, and people who want to come out and enjoy a night of concert going, that is not the solution,” he said.

Similarly, in the Cayo District, where history was made earlier in March when an SOE was activated in that district, violence has persisted. Roaring Creek Village has seen a range of criminal activities, including home invasions and murders. Just recently, the Roaring Creek Police Station was targeted in a shooting, with up to 18 shots fired at the building. Thankfully, no officers were injured, but the attack caused some structural damage.

The ongoing gang activity in Roaring Creek and Cotton Tree villages has led to the extension of the SOE to these areas. Commissioner Williams explained the necessity of including Cotton Tree in the SOE: “We do have a number of elements who are originally from Roaring Creek, but they have moved over and taken up residence in Cotton Tree. And those people are among the group of persons who are terrorizing that entire western corridor. They commit burglaries, robberies, and shootings from Cotton Tree all the way to the border area. Capturing Cotton Tree brings them into the fray and makes it better for us to be able to deal with them,” Williams explained.

As part of the SOE, patrols and checkpoints have been established throughout the affected areas to restore peace and security. The current SOE is set to last for 30 days, with the Commissioner seeking an extension to a total of three months if needed.

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