December is a prime time for criminals - and today the Officer Commanding Eastern Division, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Elodio Aragon briefed the media what is being done to deny criminals the opportunity to prey on innocent citizens.
He started with the grim news of this year's murder statistics so far:..
ACP Elodio Aragon, O/C Eastern Division "At this point in time I can tell you that we have 133 murders countrywide compare to last year which we had at the end of December 124. In Belize City in specific we have presently 72 murders that we have recorded and last year at the end of December we had 71."
Jules Vasquez reporting
That means Belize City accounts for 56% of the murders nationally. With these record figures, police are hoping a Christmas crackdown can keep it from getting worse:
ACP Elodio Aragon, O/C Eastern Division "We understand the fact that people out there especially the criminals are looking at ways to commit crime to make money. I want to assure the general public that this Christmas we are working very diligently and vigilantly to ensure that they have a safe and secure Christmas. I am confident that that will be the case."
There are stepped up patrols and an increased presence in the city:
ACP Elodio Aragon, O/C Eastern Division "The order is calling for more of our officers - we are talking about our staff personnel - all our officers who are working staff to come out and do additional duties in the evening - in the hours that we have identified where we need to be and have a presence on the streets. We have an extraneous program taking place where police officers willing to contribute additional hours for extra pay are being done."
"I can tell you that our presence out there has increase and if anybody walks out there especially in these priority areas that we have designated we would see police officers out there. Some of these areas are Albert and Orange Street - all these shopping areas."
But police are again turning to the public for assistance.
ACP Elodio Aragon, O/C Eastern Division "We as the police department are responsible for crime but so is the public responsible to assist us in reducing crime and a number of ways the public can assist us are 1) foremost and very important to us is for the general public to report crime. It is for the general public to pick up the phone and call 911 in regards to suspicious characters or any suspicious things that they see out there while they are going about their daily business."
"I am asking the general public to give us a call. We have our 911 operators standing by to receive those calls and to immediate dispatch police officers to look into that situation."
"We are also asking the general public to understand that during this festive period there are a lot of public drinking that takes place and the Belize Police Department will strictly enforce public drinking; will strictly enforce the laws that govern drunk driving."
The 74 murders in the city so far for 2012, puts the murder rate for the City at and an astonishing projected figure of about 140 persons per one hundred thousand residents.
Now, according to the 2012 census there are only 53 thousand residents in the City - so that's why we say the figure is projected.
But apparently neither prayer nor police will keep down the murder rate. In the nine days of 2013, we've had eight murders - and one shooting victim, Marco Valle remains in a very critical condition on life support.
Police still have not released the official crime statistics for 2012 - so we are still going with the media's figures which show 145 murders, the most ever. That leaves Belize with one of the highest murder rates in this hemisphere.
According to sources culled from the internet, Honduras is at the top with 80 homicides per one hundred thousand inhabitants, Venezuela is second with 73 per hundred thousand inhabitants, the US Virgin Islands is third with 60 per hundred thousand, Salvador is next with 41.3, and Belize rounds out the top five with 40.7.
Now this is an adjusted figure - last week we told you it was 46.6 - but that was based on the 2010 Belize census figure which puts this country's population at only 313,000.
But to get the rates in all those countries we used the World Bank estimate of figures - and so to make the comparison uniform, we used their figure for Belize as well, which is 356,000 inhabitants - bringing the murder rate down to 40.6 homicides per one hundred thousand inhabitants.
VIDEO: Good advice (crime in belize city) So... as Belizeans we are very conserned with the violence situation in our spot and thing and thing same way, yo dig? so we decided to give some advice on the situation we are currently in. hope this video is and inpiraton to everyone that wtches it and i hope it speaks to the inner man.
i know we call out some leaders, but its just the questions that are on our minds and maybe it plants a seed for u to stat questioning the possbilities for youself. We are not saying any one is dealing with drugs or gang. but sometimes it makes u wonder. so pray for our sweet baby, sugar plum, dumplin Belize and thing same way.
#454962 - 01/11/1307:17 AMRe: Record Number of Murders In Belize City
Thereís a huge elephant in the room that cannot be moved. It stands perfectly still while we work to pick up the dung it is dropping on the carpet, all the while ignoring its presence. Its name is geography. Belize is within the Central American geographical area and our current murder rate now puts us squarely within a region infamous for having the highest murder rates in the world. Jamaica and Trinidad also join as honorary members of the region. Sociologically there are many similarities such as poverty, inequality, unemployment and family breakdown exacerbated by migration. However, some or all of these sociological problems are shared by the majority of other countries in the world which have much lower murder rates. It is obviously important for countries to pay attention to sociological drivers of crime but equally obvious that there must be one or more other drivers. There has to be something else that all the countries in this region share and that brings us back to the elephant in the room, the elephant known as geography.
The geography that we all share is being on the trade route from drug production centres in South America and proximity to the United States. This guarantees that organised crime in the United States has an interest in supporting criminal gangs along the drug supply route. Other shared similarities include large numbers of deportees often with few family or other ties to their countries of origin and criminal records and links to organised crime and criminal gangs developed in the United States. Our shared geography also ensures that our countries are flooded with weapons and ammunition from one of the most unregulated arms markets in the world.
Recognition of the elephant in the room does not mean that we give up on reversing the increasing rate of violent crime and murder but it does indicate that we need to strategise around the elephant. The new President of Mexico has expressed the intention of doing just that. He will no longer focus on staunching the flow of illegal drugs into its neighbour to the North but will instead concentrate on improving the investigative and judicial ability to keep Mexican citizens safer. He has also recognised that taking out senior drug barons often results in a process of fragmentation that actually makes them more violent and dangerous. Another related focus of Mr. Nieto is improving Mexican schools and the education they offer.
Lessons for Belize abound. The United States did not tame organised crime in the wild days of prohibition by going in with greater fire power. Instead it took the politically explosive step of repealing prohibition laws, improving law enforcement and focusing the full power of the law on making organised crime less profitable through the RICO legislation. Belize cannot influence the decisions of the United States in the realm of its drug and gun policies but we can and must take steps that improve our own security. Improving the capacity and function of the police must be paramount. This starts by developing better structures from the top down and some steps are already being taken in this direction. However, putting new people into a broken structure will not succeed. One of the frustrations faced by those trying to clean up the Police is their inability to weed out rogue members of the Force. Some thought has to be put into finding the right balance between safeguarding the rights of individual officers and safeguarding the public at large. Those who cause cases to crumble due to deliberate or inadvertent Incompetence must face consequences. The size of the Police Force is less important than its efficiency. When the authorities are able to successfully bring criminal cases to conviction in Court there will be less incentive to take the law into their own hands and administer extra judicial justice.
We cannot remove our geographic elephant so we have to find ways work with it and around it.
All told, a very small area of Dean Street was the scene of five murders in 2013. First, on New Year's night, Orlando Williams was killed at the corner of Dean street and West Canal - and then 10 days ago, Leonard Meyers, Albert Fuentes, Keino Quallo (Quayle-lo) and Anthony Perez were murdered en masse.
Those numbers have gotten 2013 off to a worrying start in terms of crime statistics. But, before we start tabulating 2013, we haven't even finished with 2012. Police released the official crime statistics this morning. They show those 145 murders we've been reporting on, a 14.5% increase from the 124 murders in 2011. We note that there have been only 61 arrests for murders this year - which suggests that as much as 80 of those murders are unsolved. Still, the 61 arrests is a sharp 23% increase from last year's figure. May was the deadliest month, with 16 murders, while June and December recorded 15 murders each.
Reports of major crimes such as rape, robbery, burglary and carnal knowledge were up, while theft was down.
2012 Crime Statistics Released By Police Department
The Belize Police Department has recently undergone a change in hierarchy in the various levels of heads of departments with Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie at the helm. But thatís not the only major change the department has undergone, every single ranking officer will now hold on to their seats by a performance based review.
Each head of department will be subject to periodical performance reviews to ensure that crime statistics decline and not continue to escalate as has been the trend over the past few years. The police department released the statistics for 2012 today and what we can safely say is that crime had risen from 2011 to 2012.
The number of murders rose from 124 in 2011 to an all-time high of 145 in 2012, an increase of 21 more murders for last year with the Belize district having the most murders at 90. Rape went up by one count from 27 to 28 for 2012. Robbery saw the biggest increase to 487 from 447, a difference of forty more robberies last year than the previous year. The biggest increase in robberies was registered in the Belize District which saw fifty-six more than in 2011. Burglary went up by twelve reports last year totalling 1,106 while the only decline in statistics was seen in theft reports which went from 1,024 in 2011 to 950 in 2012. Reports of carnal knowledge increased by six from 50 to 56 with the highest number registered in the Cayo district. In total, there were 2,766 crimes reported in 2011 and six more reported in 2012 at 2,772.
Despite these increases in reported crimes, the numbers reported for arrests are a far cry from a passing mark in the departmentís report card. Out of the 145 reported murders, only 61 persons were arrested, a disappointing 42%. Thirteen persons were arrested for the 28 counts of rape, 181 arrests made for the 487 robberies equalling only 37.1%, and a mere 24.5% for burglaries with 271 arrests for the 1, 106 burglary reports. 288 persons were arrested for 950 crimes of theft and 35 persons arrested for the 56 crimes of carnal knowledge. Despite these dismal percentages for arrests made for these crimes, the police department are reporting an increase of 2.4% for convictions.
Increases were also reported in the amount of processed cannabis, cannabis seeds, cannabis plants, and crack seized by the department with a major decrease for Cocaine. In 2011, the department seized 200,214 grams of cocaine while reporting only 55,413 grams confiscated for 2012; a difference of 144,801 grams or 72.3%. Why the drastic decline? Well, weíll leave the speculations and conspiracy theorists to hash that one out, no pun intended.
The amount of firearms seized increased by 3.7% to 134 in 2012 while the amount of ammunition confiscated declined by 21.3% to 1,352.
With these latest figures reported by the Belize Police Department, we here at CTV-3 truly believe that the performance based reviews will motivate officers on all levels, to do a little bit more to crack down on crime. We are also more than sure that it will add more pressure and work on an already thinly spread and overworked group of police officers.
By all accounts, 2013 has already shown that it will be a difficult year for the men and women of our police department.