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Statement of Emergency Placed on St Martin’s de Porres Area

Notorious Street figure Alrick Smith was gunned down as he left this building on Thursday night. And because of his murder and previous murders, a State of Emergency was declared in Saint Martin’s area of the Old Capital. At around three o’clock on Saturday morning, law enforcement officers descended on the area, rounding up several gang members. So far, thirty men from the BLC Crips and the PIV Bloods gangs were detained and shipped to the Belize Central Prison for thirty days. The SOE came as a surprise not only to the gang members but also to the residents, but as Police Minister Kareem Musa explains, swift action had to be taken. 

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “Very swift action had to take place. Like I said, we had received very reliable information that certain retaliations would have taken place and so I believe it was Saturday morning it was imposed and so if it was a weekday, I’m sure the media would have had an opportunity to interview us. The community is very tense, very volatile, and on edge at the moment and like I always say, a state of emergency is not in any way a solution to crime but it is a pause button to stop the search because the intelligence that we were gathering leading up to the, well, after the murder of Mr. Smith is that tensions were very high and retaliation could be expected and so we thought it necessary to impose a state of emergency, a very limited state of emergency. As I had been informed, I think 31 individuals have been picked up. It could have been a very bloody weekend in the St. Martin’s area and we thought it very necessary to cool down the tensions and impose that state of emergency.”

According to the Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, who was on the ground meeting with residents on Saturday, the SOE was a last resort after mediation efforts between the gangs failed. 

Chester Williams, Commissioner, Belize Police Department: “The L.I.U. have been on the grounds dialoguing with the different groups with a view to see how they can diffuse the issue between the two groups. There had also been interventions done by L.I.U. with the feuding groups and seemingly, they go to mediation and pledged to hold the peace and as soon as mediation is over and they are released, they go back to doing the same thing that they were doing prior to the mediation and so it leaves us no other choice than to take other measures to ensure that the St. Martin’s area is restored to that sense of peace that the people of this area are accustomed to. With that said, a state of emergency was declared for the St. Martin’s De Porres area and so we now have a number of these factions in custody and we’ll go through the process as we normally do with the state of emergency. We ensured that we captured also the Backa Town area as you would know that Backa Town is a close affiliate of the PIV and we also captured Mayflower because Mayflower is a close affiliate of the Backa Land. And so we’re trying to see how we can get the different groups that are involved in this feud and let them go to prison and hopefully while they are in prison they should be able to cool off. The LIU and other agencies will work with them while they’re in prison to see how they can come with some amicable solution to the problem. It cannot be that we have these two fractions holding an entire community hostage due to their reckless behaviour. The state of emergency will be for 30 days in the first instance and if we see that at the end of those 30 days there is still no resolution between the groups then we’ll have to resort to perhaps extending it to another 30 days until they can really and truly come and decide that they will live or coexist with other. 

According to Commissioner Williams, many of the gang members were previously wanted for other incidents. He says that while the men are in prison police investigations into the various crimes committed by the groups will continue.

Chester Williams, Commissioner, Belize Police Department: “There are a number of these young men against whom we have complaints. The police have not been able to properly investigate these complaints for various reasons, some of which may be due to noncooperation of witnesses, etc. What the state of emergency is going to do now is it’s going to give the police more time to investigate these individuals and the crimes that it’s alleged that they have committed and hopefully by the time the 30 days period is up, we would have been able to gather evidence against a number of them to be able to charge them for either being a member of a gang or for whatever offence they are detained for under the S.O.E. So like I said, it is not the first resort. I think the people will see and will understand that we have tried numerous efforts. We have been very patient. The problem persists with these young men. It leaves us no other alternatives than to do what we’re doing now to ensure that we save them from themselves because at the end of the day it is really that as well as stopping them from creating further harm to the public. The police will remain on the ground and the gang members certainly will be targeted. Those who are not caught today, we’ll continue to pursue them. We’re going to hunt them down wherever they are and pull them out of whatever hole they’re hiding in. We’re very serious about what we’re doing and they need to get the message. So to the law abiding citizens, please don’t encourage them. Don’t harbour them. If you see any of them in your neighbourhoods, let us know where they are and we’re going for them because we need to get them in prison where they belong until we can come with some amicable resolution to the feud between the two factions.”