Headline — 20 July 2019 — by Albert J. Ciego
Chester pulls out the “curfew”to deal with crime

Curfew in the city is for persons 18 and under

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. July 18, 2019– Commissioner of Police Chester Williams held a police press conference at the Raccoon Street Police Station late this afternoon, at about 4:30, during which he spoke on the spike in violent crimes and what his department proposes to do to contain it.

Compol Williams said that many of the crimes that are being committed are being carried out by children, and that parents are now going to be forced to take responsibility for them. He said he has given directives for a curfew to be effected in the entire Belize City for children 18 and under, from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., beginning tomorrow, Friday, July 19.

Williams said that children found on the street who are not accompanied by an adult will be taken home, and the parents will be brought into the police station and held responsible for the violation of the curfew.

He said that in the wake of the shooting death of Allyson Major, Jr., who was shot in the head by police, a special team of investigators has been selected to investigate what transpired. The team is led by Senior Superintendent Suzette Anderson.

Williams said Anderson has a lot of knowledge and experience. She was a member of the Crimes Investigation Branch for years and has acted as deputy of the branch.

There will also be an investigator from the Ombudsman’s Office, and another civilian will be working with the task force.

Williams said he wishes to reassure the public and the family of Major that all will be done to bring the officer who pulled the trigger to justice, and that there will be no cover-ups. He said the two civilians attached to the investigation will have all access to the findings to ensure transparency.

Compol Williams also said that the police who pursued Major violated police procedures. He said commanders have been urged to ensure that officers under their command acquaint themselves with the procedures. He said that the Commander of Legal Affairs will also visit the different police stations to ensure that the officers have made themselves familiar with the procedures, so that a similar incident does not occur.

The Commissioner said that a corporal has admitted to firing two shots during the high-speed chase, and a slug was recovered from Allyson Major’s brain. This slug and the firearms used by the four policemen who were in the vehicle will be submitted to the National Forensic Sciences unit for examination by means of the IBIS (Internal Ballistics Identification System), an imaging system used by police to match bullets and cartridges with the gun from which they were fired.

Compol Williams said that after the exercise, they will know for certain who fired the shot that took the life of Allyson Major. The completed file on the case will then be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for her perusal and directives, for appropriate action to be taken against the officer.

Compol Williams said he understands why members of the public strongly reject the shooting death of Major, and he would like to see the same energy displayed by those who are seeking justice for the teacher to be exerted to reject the action of gang members so that they don’t operate so freely in some communities and feel welcome and comfortable in those communities.

Williams said that the police cannot fight crimes alone. He said there must be a concentrated, joint effort by the community, the police, and the courts. Williams said the community should no longer tolerate gangs, and that he wants gang members who are caught to be given long jail sentences, not just a fine.

This is not the first time that Commissioner Williams has enacted a curfew. In March 2016, when he was Assistant Police Commissioner and Commander of Precinct 2, Belize City Southside, Williams introduced the curfew as a new strategy to curb crime.

The curfew called for children under 18 who were found in the streets after 9:00 p.m. without the supervision of a parent or guardian to be detained by police, and they were not to be released until their parents came with sufficient explanation for why their child was in the streets, and they could pick them up in the morning.

Williams reasoned that prohibiting unsupervised minors from being on the streets late at night would prevent gang members from using these young ones to carry out their crimes, and would also keep minors safe, since the streets of Belize are a dangerous place to be late at night.

Williams told Amandala that he was just enforcing the law, although he could not point to a specific law, except to quote the Family & Children’s Act, of the Substantive Laws of Belize.

Williams insisted that “Section 46 and Section 116” of the Family & Children’s Act gave the police the authority to take such drastic measures. He said the law made provision for the police to act in the best interests of a child, to ensure their protection.

Williams told Amandala that they intended to partner with the Human Services Department to enforce the curfew.

There was resistance to the 2016 curfew. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) spoke out against the curfew, saying that it was a violation of the United Nations Rights of the Child.

UNICEF, in a meeting with ACP Chester Williams (his rank at the time), told him that they did not support the imposition of the curfew by the police, and suggested that any program that involved children should be done through the Human Services Department, or in conjunction with parents who willingly come forward and tell police what kind of assistance they need for their children.

   It was also suggested to the Police Department that if they want to protect children, they could partner with the Child Development Foundation.

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