... and across the Americas

The Government of Belize, through the Ministry of Police and Public Safety, signed an agreement last week with the Organization of American States (OAS) to include Belize in a public safety observatory for the Americas—a system which tracks criminal activity across the hemisphere.

The OAS does the tracking through the Department of Department of Public Security (DPS). Crime statistics for Belize have been posted on the DPS webpage at http://www.oas.org/dsp.

At the time of this writing, 9:00 a.m. on Monday, February 7, the total number of homicides estimated for the Americas was 15,755. By Tuesday morning, the estimate will have surpassed 16,000 homicides. The Americas, according to the observatory, is averaging over 400 homicides a day.

According to the OAS, the agreement signed with Belize will enable Belize to strengthen information on crime and violence. Belize will also receive computer equipment and software, and technical support to set up the public security observatory as a part of an inter-American system, it added.

The stated role of the observatory is to: (1) gather, organize, analyze and divulge different forms of information (statistics, legislation, public policies, good practices, documents, projects, events); (2) coordinate its action with the existing observatories, as well as regional and national information centers; (3) promote horizontal transfer of experiences; (4) stimulate discussion at various levels on public policies and legislation; and (5) promote a regional information network.

According to the OAS, the first phase of the project in the English-speaking Caribbean will include Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Trinidad & Tobago.

Among the data that would be tracked would be homicides, vehicular deaths, suicides, death by firearms, theft, robbery, kidnappings, drug seizures, traffic violations, sexual assault, child abuse reported, domestic violence reported; as well as perception of fear, perception of insecurity, prevalence of sexual assault, and other statistical indicators.

“The initiative has been made possible through financial support from the ‘Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program’ of the Government of Canada,” it added.

The signing ceremony for Belize was done at the Ministry of Police and Public Safety in Belmopan. OAS Country Representative Kim Osborne and the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Police and Public Safety Lt. Col. George Lovell represented the two parties to the agreement.

An OAS release of February 4 quotes Osborne as saying that the collection of reliable and comprehensive criminal statistics in countries, including baseline information presented by gender and age, is of paramount importance to OAS member states.

According to the DPS website, “The goal of the Observatory is the diffusion of relevant data on public security for the monitoring of public policies in each country. It is not intended for comparison between countries. The data comes from official and national sources.”