Concerns Mount Over Minors’ Involvement in Gangs in Belize
While the SOE didn’t target any minors, there is a concern surrounding the involvement of minors in gangs, according to the Chairman of the United Democratic Party. In recent months, minors have been making headlines for their involvement in shooting incidents, gang-related murders, and the transportation of illegal firearms. Michael Peyrefitte, former Minister of National Security, says the issue has long been a concern for the security services and harped on the need for the government to address the situation.
Michael Peyrefitte, Former Minister of National Security: “There’s always been intelligence. There’s always been intelligence that gang leaders tend to recruit very young men to join these organizations because, and young women too, to join these organizations or be affiliated with them. Because number one, they’re more impressionable. Number two, you wouldn’t suspect a child to be involved in that kind of activity at that level and the general public certainly would not expect that level of activity from children. You don’t think or you don’t want to think or believe that children are involved, but there’s always been intelligence that they’re heavily involved. And thirdly, the younger they are, unfortunately, the less culpable they are for criminal offenses. So if you find an 11-year-old or a 10-year-old in possession of these weapons or even a 12-year-old in possession of these weapons the justice system is less harsh on that person. So we always used to look into and heavily investigate the possibility of minors, very, very young minors being involved in criminal activity because it makes the older gang leaders separate or be able to separate themselves from the more serious crimes. And it’s a serious, serious concern. Because then you not only have younger people getting involved earlier but you have them being lost to the system. So when you’re talking to a 17-year-old or an 18-year-old about crime and staying out of gang the fear is that you’re already too late because they’ve already been indoctrinated at that early age. So it is a serious concern that we have and the intelligence should target these younger people to make sure that in addition to everything else we can prevent these older gang members from putting their fangs in the younger people in our communities.”