“We are ensuring that we have police presence at every corner of the city as best as we can. Yes, the emphasis now is on the St. Martin’s area… The regulation for the State of Emergency do give the police a number of powers; we are not going to exercise all those powers unless there is a need for us to do so, and it will only be exercised against those rivaling groups and not the law-abiding citizens,” Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams said on Saturday.
BELIZE CITY, Tues. Aug 2, 2022
Gang members and affiliates embroiled in an ongoing, bloody rivalry in the St. Martin De Porres community were caught off-guard Saturday morning when police officers stormed into the area and trucked them away for 30 days of detainment at the Belize Central Prison. It was an unannounced State of Emergency (SOE) that was put into effect in an effort to staunch the bloodshed that’s been taking place as a result of a feud between the PIV Bloods and the Back-a-Land Crips that most recently led to the execution of former PIV leader Darren Banks last Monday near Ebony Street. Of the 80 persons on the list of individuals being sought by police, between thirty and fifty-five persons (possibly more) have so far been detained under this latest SOE. Members of the Belize Defence Force are also assisting the police officers who have been deployed in the area.
“As you would know, there is an intense feud between the Back-A-Land Crips and the PIV Bloods, and that feud has resulted in many shootings, two of which have been fatal,” Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams told local media in a Saturday morning interview. He went on to note that those shootings have taken place despite pledges by members of the warring groups to “hold the peace” after mediation sessions carried out by the Leadership Intervention Unit (LIU), which has staged a number of interventions in an attempt to broker some truce between those groups.
The SOE will last for 30 days, and might possibly be extended, depending on how the individuals who have been rounded up, respond to the detainment and mediation efforts.
“We ensure that we capture also the Back-A-Town area. As you would know, Back-A-Town is a close affiliate of the PIV, and we also capture Mayflower, because Mayflower is a close affiliate of the Back-A-Land. So we tried to see how we can get the different groups that are involved in this feud, and to let them go to prison and hopefully while they are in prison they should be able to cool off,” Williams said.
He said that the area in which these individuals reside is difficult to police during times of flare-ups because of the proximity between the zones in which the various groups operate.
“As a matter of fact, some of the opposing gangs live in the territory of the rival group, and so it is extremely hard for law enforcement, so we think at this time the State of Emergency is the best solution to be able to bring to the situation under control, and I want to send a sound warning, to the other groups who are holding it down at this time. If it is that they choose to go down this path, then they will face a similar fate,” Commissioner Williams went on to say.
Other gangs in other areas will be monitored closely during this time as well as the Police Department embarks on an effort to prevent any outbreaks of gun violence in other parts of the city, COMPOL Williams said.
“The George Street, Rocky Road, Jump Street area is still of concern to us, likewise the [inaudible] Extension area. We know that they have had their flare-ups as well, and we are watching them closely. If it is we see that they begin to rear their ugly head again, then we know what to do,” Williams said.
Commissioner Williams assured the public that the police will not be exercising all its powers under the SOE this time around, and that an effort will made to limit the impact on the law-abiding citizens of the community. He did say, however, that “gang members will not be allowed to breathe.”
“I want to assure the law-abiding citizens that we will do what we can to ensure their safety and at the same time to make sure that they are able to move around their communities freely. The gang members will not be allowed to breathe. We will be right in their back, making sure that they are not given the opportunity to do what needs to be done, and those who are on our list of potential troublemakers will be detained,” COMPOL Williams said.
Interestingly, Senator Michael Peyrefitte, who is the chairman of the United Democratic Party and its Shadow Minister for National Security, has made an explosive allegation. He is claiming that members of the Police Department are aware that the shooting of Alrick Smith stemmed from a matter of a personal nature and was not gang-related. He thus called into question the department’s justification for the State of Emergency in the Lake Independence area. Peyrefitte claimed that the Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Kareem Musa, signed
a declaration for what he (Peyrefitte) described as an unannounced SOE, which, according to Peyrefitte, was triggered by the murder of Alrick Smith.
He told 7News’ Jules Vasquez, “I have good information, credible information, that the whole State of Emergency situation came about with the murder of Alrick Smith. There was a feeling in the department that once that murder took place that there would be some serious retaliation. The investigation, however, led the police to realize that that was not a gang-related crime. It was a personal situation that led to that crime, and hence there wasn’t the aggression and the press conferences and the usual barrage or blitz or police activity in that area, because they realize it was not gang-related, and even the gang elements in the streets were telling the police this is not gang related, this is personal.”
In response to these allegations, Commissioner Williams, when interviewed by reporters yesterday, said “Mr. Peyrefitte was the Minister of National Security with three SOEs under his leadership, and everyone, including you, the media, who are not lawyers [and] who have never been the Minister, you all know that when it comes to [the] State of Emergency, the Minister of National Security or Home Affairs [does] not sign any declaration. The declaration of an SOE is signed by [the Governor General]. For him to say that the Minister [Kareem Musa] signed a declaration for the State of Emergency again is total nonsense. To make matters worse, he said that it was called unannounced. For Christ’s sake, have we ever announced [the] State of Emergency? Have we? If you announce it, you defeat the purpose. You will be alerting the people who are supposed to be picked up in the SOE that you’re coming for them and they’ll go on the run. He knows better!”
For his part, Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Kareem Musa, said, “Very quick action had to be taken. We had received very reliable information that certain retaliation would have taken place, and so I believe it was Saturday morning, it was imposed, and if it were a weekday, I’m sure the media would have had an opportunity to interview us, but it happened on a Saturday morning, following the Friday shooting. And so, that is the reason why.”