Photo: Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, says many persons were arrested due to the curfew; however, many of them were without electricity due to Hurricane Lisa, so they were unaware of the curfew.
by Charles Gladden
BELMOPAN, Mon. Nov. 7, 2022
Many residents of Belize City and neighboring communities in the Belize District were without electricity for several days following the landfall of Hurricane Lisa in Belize as a Category 1 storm.
To prevent criminal activity and victimization of persons during the nighttime when darkness covered large areas, a curfew was instituted from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. from Thursday, November 3, to Sunday, November 6, by the Government of Belize. However, a large number of Belize City residents were not aware of the curfew because they had no access to the internet and social media, and could not tune in to radio or television updates due to the power outage, which caused much frustration for Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams.
During an interview with local media on Monday, November 7, Commissioner of Police Chester Williams noted that a significant number of persons were arrested for curfew violations, but that more discretion should have been exercised by the officers who made the arrests in light of the circumstances.
“There were a number of persons who were arrested due to the curfew, and I have an issue with it, for the simple fact that, at the time of the curfew was called, many people were out of current. Some had no internet; they had no access to social media, and so the information about the existence of the curfew was not widely received by the public, and so many persons were caught off guard, not knowing there was a curfew. That is where I have an issue. I think that the officers ought to have used more discretion considering the circumstance before just arresting people. Yes, I understand they’re doing their job, but there are times [when] we need to be more sympathetic towards the issues of people. These were not persons who were caught long after the curfew hours. It was just after the curfew began, early in the night. I think in the future we need to do better in terms of using our discretion not to criminalize people who were unaware of the existence of a particular law,” he said.
The Police Commissioner went on to state in regard to the task that lies ahead for the Police Department at a time when a number of residents are still without a home or have homes that are without a roof, secure doors or a fence: “We are able to carry out those tasks. We are stretched thin, but we are aware of our mandate to the people and we’re not going to cry and whine over the issue. We’re here to find solutions, and we’re doing just that … we’re going to ensure that we’re going to patrol as much as we can, especially in those more vulnerable areas, to make sure we don’t give criminals the opportunity they may need to further violate those persons who are vulnerable at this time.”