BELIZE CITY, Thurs. June 20, 2019– Contention has been brewing between the Police Department and local street vendors/peddlers over a curfew that had been imposed to shut down food stalls by 12:00 a.m. on the south side and by 2:00 a.m. on the north side.
As many may know, the uptake of sales for food vendors is in the later hours of the night and wee hours of the morning, especially on weekends after local bars and night clubs have been vacated. The curfew was met with disagreement by the vendors and general public, who were of the impression that this was an injustice and would greatly affect the income of the vendors.
The premise for the curfew, according to the Police Department, was that it would decrease the robberies and other crimes that vendors are susceptible to while remaining opened until the early hours of the morning.
The department also expressed to the media that the Belize City Council had mandated the curfew and that the police were adhering to this.
On Tuesday, however, in an interview, Mayor Bernard Wagner clarified that it was a police-instituted crime-fighting measure which the Commissioner had voiced his intention of implementing in the past.
The City Council does issue peddlers licenses, but these licenses do not come with specifications of working hours for the vendors.
In addition, Councilor Javier Castellanos (Local Economic Development, Small Business, Trade Investment) issued a statement in favor of the vendors, stating that “The disturbance of the existing network (between small business owners and vendors) then leads to greater consequences such as crime and violence, which are synonymous with poverty and instability. As an individual sworn to serving the people of Belize City, I advocate for the promotion of our small business sector.”
In the midst of the controversy, however, it was stated that the Commissioner of Police was in communication with the vendors to figure out a feasible solution and it seems that that solution has been found. On Thursday, the Police Department issued a press release stating that they would cease and desist with imposing the curfew forthwith because it “amounts to a deprivation of the vendors’ right to work.”
Although the department’s intent is to minimize the amount of persons on the street at late hours, this cannot compromise the vendors’ right to work, which they conceded in their statement. It was not disclosed what measures will be implemented to control the late night street traffic or the recent spate of robberies on small businesses, but these merchants/vendors are now free to resume work as per usual.