Frustrations are building and reaching a boiling point amongst residents on the island. The frustration stems from a spike in crime, specifically a number of burglaries that have occurred consistently over the last several months. In some cases multiple burglaries are targeted at individual establishments over a short time span while other break-ins seem random. There have been few arrests and residents and business people are fed up with being victimized with no end in sight. To make matters worse, these crimes are being committed within the core of San Pedro Town and even more alarming, it is occurring to businesses just a stones throw from where the San Pedro Police Station is located.
The most recent burglaries that have been made public are two separate incidents at Castillo’s Hardware Store located on Pescador Drive. The most recent incident occurred in the wee hours of Tuesday, August 21st. In the first instance the thieves gained entrance through a back window where a large quantity of cash was stolen and no one was arrested. In the second instance, General Manager and owner of Castillo’s Hardware Store Alfonso Castillo explained that the thieves gained entrance through the roof. A flat screen television was stolen and the entire incident was caught on a surveillance camera. “It is very frustrating. It is not much about the value of the stuff but the invasion of our privacy now,” said a very disheartened Castillo.
The day before, on August 20th The Paradise Gallery and Frame shop located at the Vilma Linda Plaza on Tarpon street was broken into. The incident is believed to have occurred between the night of Sunday August 19th and Monday morning. Thief or thieves gained access by shattering a glass door located infront of the shop. A small red digital camera (point and shoot) a DVR (recording device) and two central processing units (CPU) computers and a small amount of petty cash were taken. It appears that the thief did get cut during the process since blood was found on the site. The scene was processed by police and statements were recorded.
Also sometime during the weekend of August 18th the office of the San Pedro Tourist Guide Association was broken into. The culprit or culprits gained access by breaking a hole on the left front portion of the building. Over $225 worth of items were stolen and the building was left with damages which were repaired by Gaby’s Construction Company.
Over the past few weeks there have been several burglaries that have occurred all over the island. Sometime between the 8th and 9th of August the home of Rebecca and Karl Thomas in the San Pablo area was burglarized. Thieves gained entrance through a window, ransacked their home and made off with jewelry and other items including a 32″ flat screen television. On July 30th Linda Carter’s home was burglarized in a short time span when she went to pick up food and a few items were stolen. On July 28th the home of Annie Rivero located on Sunflower Street in the San Pablo area was broken into and several items were stolen. Then on July 18th Taz Ackerley’s home was broken into and stolen were one black and silver 9.5 inch tablet, one 19inch silver HP laptop, one purple Nikon camera, one Samsung galaxy touch screen phone and one Kindle with black leather cover. The Lions Den was burglarized sometime between the 16th and 17th of July where the club suffered over $3,000 in losses. That same week the information office owned by Amigos del Mar on Barrier Reef Drive was broken into and their large flat screen display TV was stolen. The home of Tamara and Ron Sniffin in the San Pablo are was burglarized on June 10th where items totaling about $7,620 were stolen. The home of Ticia Pilati, who is neighbors with the Sniffins was also burglarized that same week. Other victims of burglaries of recent includes Grand Belizean Estates Limited situated on Barrier Reef Drive, Casa Picasso in the San Pablo area, Ruth and Graham Verralls from Casa Celeste, the property of Grant Crimmins and several properties managed by Caye Management just to name a few.
The modus of operandi in most of the cases has been the same; thieves wait until the owners are out or their businesses are closed over the weekend to move in. In the majority of cases there has been no arrest. According to San Pedro Police, in most instances local residents who know something about the crimes committed are not cooperating with police. One of the major set backs police say they are faced with during their investigation is that citizens are harboring the “known criminals” and are “buying stolen items.” According to police, some of the island residents who see these things happening are not reporting it to police, something that is vital for them to “make an arrest.”
One of the victims, Ticia Pilati told The SP Sun that when her place was burglarized on May 30th the thief was captured but was released two weeks after. “The thief was caught and plead guilty. He went to Hattieville for two weeks and is now roaming the streets, circling the San Pablo neighborhood on a regular basis,” said Pilati. When asked about people who are arrested and released on bail, SP police claim that once the person is taken through the court, the decision to release falls solely on the presiding magistrate judge to make that decision. Police did agree in many instances “known criminals” are granted bail by the court which is “frustrating the department” when it comes to maintaining law and order on the island. The police made it absolutely clear that granting an individual bail or having an individual remanded to prison when a person is before the court is strictly a call that is made by the magistrate. What adds to the frustration of the San Pedro Police Department is the lack of a permanent magistrate. San Pedro has been without a resident magistrate since June of 2011.