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Police emphasize local, regional cooperation in halting suspected drug plane landings

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Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2019. 9:10 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Acknowledging challenges with resources such as secondary radar, the Police Department says it has and continues to implement its plans to combat the epidemic of landings of suspected drug planes in Belize.

The latest landing, in the Blue Creek area of Orange Walk on Sunday, happened despite police having some advance warning, and when they arrived they found the Harker jet, now towed to a secret location, empty of its suspected cargo but otherwise undamaged. There was no sign of anyone or anything suspicious in the area.

Noting a year-over-year reduction in landings (Sunday’s landing was the seventh reported this year, compared to 12 last year), Commissioner of Police Chester Williams was reluctant to offer details of the Police’s plans, saying it would not do to “commit suicide” by tipping off the culprits as to its strategy.

But he did say that the Police’s concern is one shared by regional counterparts from Mexico to Nicaragua, both of which also recorded plane landings on Sunday evening.

While airplane-related activity has been recorded on the Coastal Road, in the Toledo District and elsewhere, the northwestern Orange Walk District is ground zero for such landings; as Williams acknowledged the area is wide open and difficult to police.

Police, according to Williams, were deployed from late Saturday night in various areas anticipating a landing and are determined to do more despite their handicaps. But he would not confirm reports that a first call to Police came at around 10:30 p.m. Saturday, stating that whenever a call comes in about a plane landing, police must call in their partners in the Belize Defence Force Belize Special Assignment Group (BSAG) and elite police units the Special Patrol Unit and Anti-Narcotics Unit. Information about the tracks of the plane is sent so that the teams can get ready, but the tracks do not cover exact travel lines to a T.

We asked about cooperation on the ground with human intelligence from the area and Williams said that Police do rely more on human intelligence and cooperation which waxes and wanes. A recent operation in the area targeted potential suspects involved in the racket, including one arrest for firearm offenses, but hard evidence has been hard to come by.

“We can’t say we know exactly who but we have a basic idea who are some of the players and we have been going at those persons – conducting searches at their homes and other stuff; but the law limits us as to what we can do where we don’t have evidence against those persons who may be involved in these activities,” the Commissioner said, later adding that the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) has been called in to scrutinize their finances.

 

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