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Belize Government declares SOE in Belize and Cayo districts following surge in gun violence

HeadlineBelize Government declares SOE in Belize and Cayo districts following surge in gun violence

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Tues. Mar. 26, 2024

The Belizean Government has enacted a State of Emergency (SOE) effective March 26, covering parts of Belize City’s Southside and specific areas within the Cayo District, in response to a concerning spike in gun-related violence.

This directive, approved by Governor General H.E. Dame Froyla Tzalam, follows a surge in shootings, with 26 murders reported since the year’s start, marking an increase from the previous year’s count of 19 during the same timeframe.

Notably, this past weekend witnessed six shootings, resulting in three fatalities, including a respected police officer from Belmopan in Roaring Creek, and two in Belize City.

The SOE aims to mitigate the risk of retaliatory violence, especially with the Easter holidays approaching, by authorizing the detention of individuals linked to gang activity.

Outside of Belize City, the SOE includes the Hattieville area as well as areas in the Cayo District, including Another World area in Roaring Creek Village and Young Bank area in Camalote Village, marking the first occasion that an SOE has been declared outside of Belize City due to criminal activity.

“Due to the flare-up of gun violence in the city, as well as in the Roaring Creek and the Camalote area, the state of emergency was declared, and we are now going after those persons who we believe are part of those flare-ups,” Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams said today.

Accompanying the SOE is a list of regulations, otherwise known as the Statutory Instrument (SI) No. 59 of 2024, enforced within the designated areas. Failure to keep them could result in up to a year imprisonment without entitlement to bail.

The SI includes prohibitions on loitering, public drinking, and group gatherings, along with measures to allow authorities to conduct searches without a warrant and impose a curfew on minors from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. unless accompanied by an adult.

Detainees under the SOE will be subject to documentation procedures such as photographing and fingerprinting, with the information preserved post-release.

The SI extends to individuals dodging authorities by fleeing the SOE-designated areas, labeling them as “persons of special national security interest.”

The regulations also facilitate the confinement of persons to their homes or specified locations by the Minister, Hon. Kareem Musa, to prevent actions deemed threatening to public safety or order.

The enforcement of the SOE involves the coordinated efforts of the Belize Police Department (BPD), Belize Coast Guard (BCG), and Belize Defence Force (BDF), and it is set to last a minimum of one month with the possibility of extension.

Notably, the last state of emergency was implemented in July 2023.

Shortly after the announcement was made this morning, the BPD along with the BDF were already on the grounds of the SOE-affected areas, including Belize City’s Southside, where the Commissioner was overseeing operations.

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