Over the past few months there have been a growing number of violent incidents in the south of Belize, ranging from fights to chopping and shooting incidents. A family was brutally hammered during a robbery in Independence Village last week and one person is still in a coma. On Sunday, 2 persons were shot in Punta Gorda and on Monday a couple of men escaped being injured during a crossfire of shots near the Central Park in P.G. Even a place like the idyllic Hopkins Village has experienced a brutal attack on a homeowner on Saturday. But it is not that but the brutal murder of two men, Kevin Pandy Moro and Oscar Humes that brought out Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, Southern Regional Commander, Sr. Superintendent Sandra Bodden and the Commander of Operations
Sr. Supt. Marco Vidal to address the crime in the south. The Southern Regional Commander says that the murder of the two men may have been related to the murder of Jordy Flores who was shot and killed at his home on West Street in PG on January 29.
Sr. Superintendent Sandra Bodden Southern Regional Commander Belize Police Department: “We had unfortunately a double murder last night in Punta Gorda Town where Police after receiving information visited the Hospital where they observed one Kevin Pandy Moro one 30 year old Belizean of Punta Gorda Town and also one Oscar Humes also with gunshot injuries. Unfortunately at the time of the arrival at the hospital Moro had apparently already passed away and Moro was being transported the Southern Regional Hospital where he died enroute to the Southern Regional Hospital. Investigation into this matter continues and Police have identified a potential suspect in this investigation. Humes died on the way to the Southern Regional Hospital. The investigation into this matter is still fairly new however there is information that it may be gang related. The information is showing that there is some connection between this shooting and a shooting that occurred previously that resulted in the death of Jordy Flores.
The situation in P.G. is very tense as it seems criminal enterprises have expanded from the Belize District to other parts of the country, including the Toledo District. Commissioner Williams alluded to the possible involvement of police officers in crime in the south while the Commander of Operations made it clear the department is sending forces to the south to investigate, apprehend and charge criminals, all in an effort to prevent P.G. from becoming a crime ridden zone. Senior Superintendent Marco Vidal says that the police department is targeting 35 individuals as part of the southern OPS.
Commissioner of Police Chester Williams: “Those who have the tendency of singing Police brutality and Police this and Police that…I want to say that it is our intention and I say it with no apologies to go hard at those persons who are creating havoc within these communities and we are going to use the force that is necessary within the limits of the law. We are also looking at the potential involvement of Police officers in these activities and once those officers are identified we are going to root them out of Punta Gorda as well because at the end of the day we cannot have officers who are supposed to be law abiding officers and for them to be in cahoots with these criminals. We must start from among ourselves as well and so that is also being looked at at this time.”
Jose Sanchez: “There was once the assumption that if an officer misbehaves perhaps 10,15 years ago then Punta Gorda was the dumping ground for officers who behave poorly. Could it be a combination of that and rather than fleeing to the south the criminal enterprises are expanding to the south as an alternative. Is there some great urgency to nip it in the bud so to call it to keep PG the way it once was?”
Commissioner of Police Chester Williams: “Well I guess that is what they have just said and we want to ensure that the situation does not continue to manifest itself and this will be done by a combination of things. I have said that we are looking internally at the involvement of Police officers and we are looking externally as it relates to the activities of the different gang groups who have left Belize City and have migrated to Punta Gorda Town in terms of looking to see to what extent they are involved, as well as to look at the activities of those who are the local persons from Punta Gorda because it is not only about persons who are from outside but we also have persons who are from Punta Gorda Town who are also involved and so we have to look at every aspect of this situation in order for us to nip it in the bud as you rightly said.”
Sr. Superintendent Marco Vidal Assistant Commissioner of Operations: “Currently as we speak we have the Special Patrol Unit along with the Special Branch local investigators in Punta Gorda and we are targeting the persons who we suspect are involved in the other criminal activities as you mentioned. As the Senior Superintendent mentioned just now that we suspect that there is some level of inter gang rivalry and for that purpose we are targeting some persons. As a matter of fact we have so far targeted over 35 persons and some of whom are gang elements from Belize City who are in the Punta Gorda area. Also coupled with that we are launching an operation in relation to the suspect with Chen so we are launching operation in regards to that as well and other operations in Punta Gorda that will be sustained.”
Commissioner Williams made it clear that the police department needs the help of the community in P.G. to restore law and order. He hopes that people in the south will work along with Senior Superintendent Vidal and the Southern Regional Commander Senior Superintendent Sandra Bodden to stamp out the criminal elements from the district.
Commissioner of Police Chester Williams: “I want the public to know that we are here to support the officer who is in command of the Southern Region. We know that the issues of gang involvement with criminal activities in the south seems to be picking up speed and it may have reached a stage where containing it will be difficult to be done with just the input of the officers from the southern area and so from the Police Headquarters level using our specialized units we are down on the grounds and we will be hunting down these persons who are involved and we intend to catch them. Most importantly we want to see how we can build cases on them that they can be charged and put away. I want to say to the residence of Punta Gorda as well as Independence and Mango Creek that these criminals who would leave from Belize City and go to either Dangriga or Independence that they will only feel as comfortable among you to the extent that you make them feel comfortable. If it is that these people are not welcome within your community then you have a responsibility too to let them understand that they are not going to be welcomed among you. As Mr. Vidal has said these operations will be consistent over a period of time and the officers have a task that they must achieve and that will be done. Ms. Bodden who is the Commander down south will have some responsibility in terms of supporting these officers. She will have some control in terms of directing operations where officers are concerned because it is her area and we want that whatever is done is done in collaboration with her and the other officers on the ground.”
We will have more details of other incidences in the south, later on the newscast.