State of Emergency Declared in two south side areas Print
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Friday, 07 September 2018 00:00

The Minister of National Security, Hon. John Saldivar, CEO in the ministry, Ret. Col. George Lovell, and ACP Chester Williams spoke at a press conference on Wednesday, September 5, 2018 after Governor General of Belize, Sir Colville Young, signed a statutory instrument. That proclamation declared a state of public emergency in the Southside of Belize City, especially the areas in and surrounding Banak and George streets.

CEO Lovell was the first to speak, making reference to the Special Areas spoken about in the Crime Control and Criminal justice Act Chapter 102 Part IV of the Laws of Belize Revised edition 2000. “The violence that we have had over the weekend has caused us to look on the nation and we have decided that it is absolutely now necessary for us to evoke two areas from the five that were initially identified in March of this year, the Special Areas. So today, the Governor General of Belize has signed a Statutory Instrument, statutory instrument #49 of 2018, which is a proclamation declaring a State of Public Emergency in the Southside of Belize in two areas that the Commissioner will speak to in a few.”

The State of Emergency, according to the CEO, will work to subdue the expected crime surge during the September activities. “We believe that with us going into our festive season, 10th and 21st, and the fact that the type of incidents we have seen over the last week or so, it is absolutely necessary for us to arrest the situation and to do so before it gets out of control and we have to go back to the state where we were in March of this year. This that we are doing will hopefully allow the Police Department, without any additional resources and additional support from the sister agencies, to be able to go in there and arrest the situation in those areas that have been named. We are asking the residents of those areas to be patient, to be understanding, and to work with the law enforcement agencies as they go about to try to assist the situation and bring it to normalcy. We are hoping that this will happen in the time that is set out under law, which is a 30-day period.”

Acting Commissioner of Police Chester Williams expounded on what CEO Lovell said and added that the Belize Police Department has been in constant dialogue with the different gang groups across Southside Belize City. “Those dialogues have made some very positive results in some areas while some areas seemingly want to believe that they can hold the rest of the city hostage. As the police, we are tasked to ensure the safety of others.”

Like ACP Williams says, some groups do feel that the dialogue is not firm enough. “Some people seemingly learned differently than others and, so, it is now necessary for us to be able to move to another level where we can let those persons who are adamant about creating havoc in our society understand that the police is here to do a job and that job will be done at any cost to ensure the safety and security of our law abiding citizens. This does not mean that we are going to discontinue dialogue with those persons who are working with us. The dialogue with those persons who are cooperating will continue with a view to ensure that the peace between them will be maintained. But as is outlined in the proclamation, Banak area and the George Street area are the two areas of concern at the time.”

But what does it mean for the law abiding citizen? ACP Williams says, “While the proclamation does give the police and other law enforcement agencies additional powers to go in and arrest the situation, we do not intend to abuse those powers. We will continue to discharge our duties in a manner that is respectful to the rights and freedom of all, especially our law abiding citizens. We do not intend to disrupt the normal lives of those persons who live within these two areas in any way, shape, or form. However, if it is that they are condoning criminal activities or gang activities, then they can be sure that the police will be coming to their homes but we do not want the public to believe that “because we have a state of emergency the lives of ordinary people will be disrupted”. The stores in those areas will be left to remain open as per normal.”

Like CEO Lovell says, ACP Williams maintains that the proclamation will be used to maintain the peace especially during the September celebrations that the law abiding citizen can move about without fear. With that, the proclamation empowers the police to detain individuals for up to 30 days. According to ACP Williams, if there is no improvement at the expiration of that period, it will be taken further.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 September 2018 13:10