It’s with a heavy heart that I write this post, but I believe it’s necessary to keep my readers informed on crime. As many of you know, recently, Ambergris Caye residents were shocked to hear about a robbery and shooting of a long time US expat resident. Folks were even more saddened to learn of the victim’s death not long after.
There was a witness but the person is understandably frightened and has left the country for personal safety.
Properly protecting a witness is a very expensive endeavor and currently beyond the financial ability of the Belize Government.
The few people that might find themselves in this precarious situation stand to benefit from recent changes to GOB legislation allowing for witness testimony to be done via video conference with face shadowed and voice altered.
I wanted to get word from someone who was in the know so I reached out to Tamara Sniffin owner of San Pedro Sun News Paper and President of San Pedro Chapter of the Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA). Here is what she had to say – “At our April 2018 BTIA meeting with the Ministry of National Security we were informed of new legislation that permits witness video statements in court. This allows for anonymity and protection of witnesses.”
This is a big deal as now there is a new form of accountability coming into place. When someone has to leave and go back to their regular life, they will still be able to testify in Belize if needed.
While I think it is a great advancement, I am not going to put the cart before the horse expectation wise as this is still a new law, and already there is some back and forth about it.
Rebecca Arceo co-owner of Seaduced and a strong leader of the San Pedro Business Association (SPBA) believes that in-person testimony is still the best option to make an airtight case. Based on researching information for this write-up, I have to agree. It is quite likely that it will take time and unfortunately a few growing pains to get this new legislation running smoothly. Initial research is being done by the San Pedro Business Association to look into how the whole video thing would work and what is needed on both ends.
Although it is my hope that this situation does not come up often. Thankfully the members of the SPBA understand the nature of how things work. Sometimes we all just need to pitch in and do what it takes to make the best of a bad situation in order to help justice prevail. They are ready to do what it takes to help in fighting crime on Ambergris Caye but they need community support.
Crime Fighting Fundraiser
The witness to the horrible event mentioned above is willing to testify against the people who have been arrested for the crime. The testimony will only be made if the witness is guaranteed protection while in Belize. Peter Lawrence is spearheading a fundraiser to support this San Pedro Business Association effort to raise money for the security of the witness.
The goal is to raise $20,000. All monies will go into a fund to help the current and if any left over, future witnesses testify in safety. The SPBA will account for and administer funds as needed.
The fundraiser will be held at Caribbean Villas on Sunday, July 29, 2018. There will be live entertainment and lots of fun including, a free water park (children must be accompanied by parents), 50/50 raffle, volleyball and more. Dj Debbie will provide music.
To RSVP, for answers to questions, or to make your advance donation please contact Rebecca Arceo 226-2254, Megan Paz 226-3825, or Felipe Sansores 226-2715. (fundraiser update will happen when the information comes)
You Don’t Have to Wait to Donate
So far a number of private individuals that have contributed. The following businesses have also made crime fighting contributions: Lola’s Pub, Stacks, Ak’bol, Caribbean Villas, San Pedro Animal Hospital, Pedros Hotel, Jambos Java,
Feature image – Stunning south-west aerial view of Ambergris Caye at sunset courtesy of L. Kelly Jones.
Colorful Caribbean Sea courtesy of Caribbean Villas Hotel