With all the political scandals that got hours of coverage in the headlines, 2013 was a big year in news. And while scandals from Mark King at the Casino to the Social Investment Fund to Penner's passport and Castro's visa recommendations dominated the headlines, one thing we reported much less on was crime, especially murders. And that, in itself, is one of the biggest stories of the year!
The most recent crime statistics which take us up to December 17th show that murders dropped from 136 for the same period last year to 94 for this year. That's up to December 17th, but since then there have been five murders, bringing the unofficial total to 99 murders. If it stays that way, 2013 could be the first year since 2009 to record less than 100 murders. In 2009 there were 97 reported murders, and it's been on an upward trend since then. And last year, it peaked at 145 murders. Now, 99 or 100 murders are nothing to celebrate, not at all, but the drop is significant and would be the greatest single year downturn ever recorded. It would also bring Belize's murder rate per hundred thousand to just a shade under 30, specifically 29.91. That would also take Belize's murder rate out of the international top ten where it had been for some years. It also brings the murder rate under the civil war benchmark of 30.
And the most significant decline in murders would have to be in Belize City, which has gone down from nearly 80 murders in 2012, to less than 40 in 2013. We don't have the precise final figures yet, but the total downturn in Belize City crime is expected to be about 50% or more - which is remarkable. We'll have the full final figures by early January.