Regional Commander for Eastern Division (South), Senior Superintendent Chester Williams, toward the end of last week began working along with the mothers and relatives of several known gang members of the Ghost town Crips based on Mayflower Street, who out of fear of further reprisals, have approached the police department to organize a truce. Police brought in 22 young men from the Mayflower area including minors, several of whom are related and live in a congested area. They sat with three trained counselors and mediators – Annie Palacio of Belize Kids First; Dianne Finnegan of the Youth Apprenticeship Program, and the Department’s own Douglas Hyde, Eastern Division Public Relations Coordinator. After several hours of dialogue, the warring youths mended fences, as Sr. Supt. Williams briefed the press this morning.
“At the end of the meeting I must say was successful. They all agreed that they will put aside their personal issues and they will try to live together in that small community. As I had said to them that whilst we may be able to police them going out of the area or others coming into the area and doing shootings it is difficult to contain them because they are in one congested area and they are fighting among themselves. It’s like having a fight in a house then and you would not be able to know what is happening inside the house. So while we have police officers on the periphery, inside was in issue. So they agreed that as a part of that agreement they are handing over one AR15, brand new rifle and, I think, fifteen live rounds of ammunition for the same rifle. So the police have that firearm now and it is not a one-day thing. We know that it will require more than what has been done so we are planning to have a social event in the area probably this weekend, this Sunday with them. We’ll do a barbecue and probably some games. Again, to bring them more closer together.”
As part of the new way forward, Ellis Meighan, accused of shooting two former rivals on Vernon and Lakeview Streets last Thursday, will not face attempted murder charges after the complainants indicated they did not want court action. Williams says this is important for charting the new course for these troubled youths.
Sr. Supt Chester Williams
“Two persons, the complaint in the matter do not want anything. They have expressed that they do not want to pursue the matter. As I said, they are one group of people… they are all related, living in the same area and they said that they do not want to pursue the matter so we cannot proceed because they say that they do not want anything.
“Does this encourage a kind of impunity and how do you maintained the balance between mediation and a strict enforcement of the law?”
Sr. Supt Chester Williams
“There is a strict enforcement of the law Jules, but like I said before if you have full scale policing, it has been tried for many years. It has not work. We need to have a different approached on fighting crime and my approach is to have a dual approached. We have a soft side and we have a tough side and if we want to see change in Belize City, we as law enforcement and the community on a whole must give these people who are involved in these crimes, an opportunity to try and make that change that they say they want to make. Now, if we are giving them the opportunity to make that change, and they go out and commit crime, then you have the tough side that will kick in and deal with them.”
Several Gang Truces have been brokered over the years in an effort to stave off the violence plaguing the south-side streets of Belize City in particular. The recent flare up of gang rivalry in the Mayflower Area was not, it appears, Ghosttown versus other gangs but rather members of the same gang fighting amongst each other. But then, how were three innocent young men – Ruben Leslie, Tarique Thompson and Kareem Clarke – dragged into this inter-necine struggle? We asked Sr. Supt. Williams about that and here is his response.
Sr. Supt Chester Williams
“I will not comment about the two teenagers and as to their gang affiliation. The internal conflict was seen as one side shooting against the other and the other shooting against the other. There was a back and forth. You shoot one for me today and tomorrow ill come to shoot one for you. That was the situation in the area.”
Aaron Humes – Plus TV Reporter
“But these are, as far as we are aware, innocent persons.”
” Like I said, I will not go and venture down that road. I know for sure that there was one shooting in the area where the person the person who has been shot, we can say was completely innocent and that was the case with Mr. Clarke. Mr. Clarke fell victim to a situation, I will not say the reason why, but it was an unfortunate situation.”
The truce helps police to begin to work on rooting drugs and other sources of gang profits and activity in the area, and the Senior Superintendent warned that it was not a license to kill or commit other crimes, as evidenced by even stronger police patrols inside the enclave. Police continue to monitor the area for all criminal activity. The unique situation has led to a change in police patrol strategy – ‘boxing out’ persons living on the Banak Street area from those living closer to Vernon Street. The alleged gunman in the incident that took place on Thursday, Williams believes, was neutralized as a result of the police strategy. As for other hotspots in the city, Williams says they have reorganized their patrolling strategy understanding that they cannot afford to lose focus on other areas, such as the West Lake Independence/LaCroix Boulevard area. It is a matter of stretching human resources to cover all the ‘hotspots’ – using motorcycle and bicycle patrols on a regular and extended basis. Further division of the sectors of the City will involved expanded patrols with static vehicles in addition to the standing patrols while also being able to respond quickly to major incidents – Williams targets no less than five minutes.