There has been an increase in piracy in the southern waters of Belize. Commissioner of Police Chester Williams says that those engaged in these criminal activities have relieved genuinely hard-working fishermen and businessmen of their belongings, particularly boats, engines and marine products. ComPol Williams informs that the Belize Police Department is working with the Belize Coast Guard and Fisheries departments to pursue and apprehend the gang of pirates. Williams says that earlier this week several operations were launched in the southern waters targeting the pirates. This led to the detention of several suspects. The men were charged by the Fisheries Department for fisheries violation. Williams also confirmed that the persons arrested are members of the local gang in Dangriga and as such were charged with being a member of a gang. They were remanded to the Belize Central Prison after they were arraigned. Commissioner Williams says that measures are being put in place to maintain presence in the area.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “Just last week we conducted a number of operations in the south geared at going after these persons who we believe are involved in sea piracy but from what we are seeing there are three groups involved. One of the groups that we dealt with last week they were charged with various fisheries offences and then they were also charged with being a member of a gang under the Crime Control and Criminal Justice Act and many of them were remanded to prison on Friday. But we have two other groups we believe are operating within the area and they frequent the Stann Creek district and Honduras so it would appear as if whenever they do their crime whatever they would steal they would take to Honduras in exchange for drugs and guns and come back into Belize and so this is an area we’re working on. We’re working in collaboration with the Belize Coast Guard, the Fisheries Department as well as other business people within the area who are assisting the police with resources to be able to patrol the area. And so moving forward we are putting certain things in place I’m not going to go into specifics but we’re putting certain things in place to be able to ensure that we maintain presence within the area from police. We know that it is not the police responsibility to patrol the waters that was relinquished to Coast Guard in 2008 when Coast Guard was created and so police no longer have the assets to patrol the waters but we do so from time to time with Coast Guard but what we’re doing now is that we’re going to get our own vessel and we’ll do certain patrols within the area with a view to see how we can assist the Coast Guard and the Fisheries with enforcement on the waters.”
But while the suspects are behind bars, Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa says the concern is very much alive.
Hon. Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries: “The issue of the sea pirates as well as the home invasion issue are two very concerning topics that we in the police department are looking at very closely. I can tell you that in terms of the sea piracy we are very close in my opinion to identifying the suspects it is just about gathering evidence and we have been gathering concrete evidence and it is my hope that we can start pursuing those individuals because this is something that cannot continue. As you know we live in a very large geographic area, our land mass is huge but imagine trying to cover that sea mass, it is equally difficult for us to cover such a large area but that is not stopping us. We have up the ante, we are working very closely with the Coast Guard in southern Belize and like I said we are getting some very good leads and it is my hope that it can lead to some arrest very shortly. There are actually three groups that we’re looking at and we’re narrowing this particular incident down but there are a band of pirates we have to accept that and we need to gather evidence against them so that we can make these arrests and that is exactly what we’re doing. While it is that we have good leads on these particular sea pirates like you said gathering the actual evidence in relation to these bigger crimes is what we’re focused on but in the meantime there are other violations that they have been committing that we can get them on but the end game is not to get them on the small offences. We are fully committed to getting them on these big offences.”
Musa is calling on members of the community to work with the department in arresting the remaining culprits.