National Security Minister deploys Additional Troops to Belize City Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 26 April 2012 00:00

Hon. John Saldivar at Press ConferenceHon. John Saldivar,  Minister of National Security, held a press conference at the Belize Biltmore Plaza on Monday, April 23, after an extremely wild weekend in Belize City. The violent weekend started with a shootout between affiliates of the George Street and Taylor’s Alley Gangs on Orange Street. Orlando Reyes, Kevin Peters and Kent Henderson were shot in the exchange. Peters and Henderson did not receive life-threatening injuries however, Reyes was shot in the middle of his chest and attempted to run to safety. He made it all the way to Mike’s Club on Regent Street West before he collapsed and eventually succumbed to his injuries.

The shooting on Orange Street was worrying because it was the first serious exchange between the rival groups since the beginning of the truce program. Residents were concerned at how that exchange could escalate. A little over eight hours later, that concern residents had evolved into all out panic when news started to circulate that Shelton Tillett, better known as Pinky, was shot to death at the Esso Gas Station located two and a half miles up the Northern Highway. Pinky was the leader of the George Street Gang and the most influential figure in the truce program. News spread quickly from neighbour to neighbour. Individuals took it upon themselves to share the news with complete strangers and warn them to stay inside. By Saturday morning, it was public information that the shooter was Arthur Young, leader of the Taylor’s Alley Gang. At that time, leaving one’s home was done only out of necessity.

On Saturday afternoon, stevedore Peter Flowers, known as Jam Boy, was shot dead on Caesar Ridge Road while on his way to work. Flowers is an associate of another George Street rival, the South Side Gangsters. His attackers left him no chance of survival as he was blasted with at least 15 bullets. The sensitive and dynamic nature of the events caused police to stop the release of information. That decision allowed the rumour mill to mass produce. After Flowers was killed, at least 9 others were proclaimed dead in widespread gossip. Those rumours were hard to shut down since shots were heard ringing throughout the day. The city shut down on Saturday evening. Most businesses closed and most families locked their doors early. Police were present on most bridges across the city. The streets seemed like those of a city preparing for a hurricane. That setting prevailed throughout Sunday. On Sunday evening, residents of the Gill Street area reported hearing numerous shots fired from high-powered automatic weapons. Still there was no news from the police. However, there was plenty on Facebook. Posts from sources considered to be credible had as much as a dozen people dead. The last piece of news circulated on Sunday night was that Arthur Young had been killed by police.

The Minister of National Security, Hon. John Saldivar, held a press conference at 10 a.m. on Monday. He opened by saying, “the recent spike in homicides give rise to great concern.” He then shared the facts about the extent of violence over the weekend. He said the violence started with the shooting death of Reyes on Friday. Including Reyes, seven people were shot over the weekend. Four were fatal, one was killed by police and one was in a critical condition at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. He condemned those involved in spreading wrong information through the social media saying, “The rumours were idle and malicious. They put the city in fear for over 72 hours.”

Saldivar then shared a little about the Ministry’s plans to get the city back under control. He said that as of Sunday, April 22, eighty additional police and BDF soldiers were brought to Belize City. On Tuesday, April 24, the Ministry gave more details on its operations via a press release. There will be static and roving vehicle check points throughout the City, at Hattieville, Mile 4 on the Western Highway, the Boom Junction and at the Manatee Lookout Area on the Northern highway. Members of the Criminal Intelligence Unit are assigned to those areas in order to assist in the identification of known gang members and their affiliates.Vehicle check points are also established at the river crossings at Bel-Can and Bel-China bridges with security forces lookout points at both approaches to the Swing Bridge. Motorcycles are assigned to the lookout points in order to intercept and interdict criminal elements operating in those areas.  A security corridor is established along Central American Boulevard and Princess Margret Drive from the Esso Depot to UB Campus in Button Wood Bay. ATVs are assigned to the security team along the security corridor. This is to ensure that students and workers can move freely to and from their place of business in those areas. Over forty Belize Defense Force Soldiers were sworn in as Special Constables to allow them to carry out their functions during this operation.In the various “Hot Spots”, stop-and-search operations at key areas are ongoing. Key choke point areas are manned especially in the vicinity of George Street, Taylor’s Alley, Rocky Road and Mayflower Street. Static, roving foot and vehicle patrols are established in and around the various zones where criminal activities are known to occur.

Minister Saldivar said, “I am confident that our efforts will lead to desired results.” He continued, “We can, we must, we shall once again live in a tranquil haven.”