Creole Proverb: Wen teef teef fram teef, God
Translation: When a thief steals from
another thief, God laughs.
Belize can be a wonderful sun- and
fun-filled place to live, but, like anywhere, there are some
things to be aware of.
Unlike Mexico, Guatemala, and other
countries in the region, Belize has no organized crime. In
Belize, no drug cartels are fighting for dominance or control.
Luckily, our sleepy little country seems too small to interest
said, there is gang-related crime in some areas of Belize City,
but this doesn't spill over into the general population. You
probably aren't going to want to move to Belize City anyway,
unless you're looking for a job. The Cayes, Cayo, Northern Belize, and
the Deep South are all better locations for expats. Serious
crime statistics can seem high for Belize, until you realize
that they really all take place in very localized areas of
Belize City. The statistics are still high, but the crimes
aren't something you have to worry about unless you plan to move
into a gang-ruled neighborhood in the city's capital (and, of
course, that's not something you're going to
Interestingly, even among the worst gangs in Belize
City, harming a police officer is forbidden. The population of
Belize is small. Most everyone is related to each other in some
way, including police and gang members. This helps to keep
things under some level of control.
Kidnappings for ransom
are unknown. The only instance I am aware of in all my time in
Belize was resolved in hours when the entire village was alerted
and a group of 200 locals and police mobilized, retrieving the
couple unharmed and with no payment even considered.
Here's my advice for the best way to remain safe in
Belize (in fact, these things would hold true anywhere in
Central or South
- Be aware of your surroundings,
especially in areas you do not know well...
display conspicuous wealth (don't wear expensive jewelry, for
- Don't carry large amounts of
- Be wary of letting people know you have a
safe in your house. There is an assumption here that, if someone
has a safe, it must be full of treasure -- maybe it's a
throwback to the country's pirate days...
locals with courtesy and respect unless given specific reason to
- Don't interfere in other people's personal
relationships, neither romantic nor familial. Crimes of passion
are common here, as they are in Central America in
I have been spending time in Belize for more than
25 years -- in rural Cayo, in San Ignacio town, on Ambergris
Caye, in Placencia, in Dangriga, in Corozal, and, yes, in the
much-maligned Belize City, where I have traveled on my own and
with my young children. I have never felt threatened by anything
other than a couple of snake sightings.
experienced even petty crime, but I've known some who have. One
friend, a long-time, full-time resident of Cayo, Belize, had a weed whacker
disappear when he left it outside for two weeks while he was
visiting family back home in Ireland. The lesson there is: Don't
leave things lying around where someone can pick them up. It's
too much of a temptation. I'd say this is true anywhere in the
Another friend living in Belize once left his house
unlocked and was relieved of the contents of his fridge and
alcohol cabinet but nothing else. Friends have had handbags
taken when they left them in public parks. Other friends have
been nearly stampeded by local panhandlers rushing to return
lost wallets and bags (admittedly with the hope of a beer or two
as a reward).
Car theft is almost non-existent in this country.
There are only four highways, and the police maintain
checkpoints at the start and end of each of them. There is just
no way to easily move a stolen vehicle. On the off chance that
your car did go missing, the likeliest explanation would be that
someone (maybe after a few beers too many) borrowed it to get
home. You could expect it to turn up the next day.
never owned a gun, not in Belize or anywhere else. I have never
felt the need. However, I understand that gun ownership can be
an important element of peace of mind for some people. If you're
one of them, you'll be pleased to know that gun ownership is
legal in Belize for residents.
That said, gun ownership in
this country is a privilege, not a right. Strict gun laws mean
draconian measures are on the books for those found with any
unlicensed guns or ammunition.
Belize offers three classes of legal gun
Farm Shotgun: Licensed for the
protection of livestock from predators and vermin on your farm
(with the size of the farm or vermin not really mattering). If
you hold a farm license, your gun should be taken off your farm
only once a year for relicensing at the district police
Hunting Rifle or Shotgun: These
can be carried openly but must be unloaded and in a case or
wrapped in cloth when in towns or villages. Non-Belizeans are
also required to obtain tags for specific game animals. Hunting
is a popular pastime in Belize. Many animals are protected in
this country, but specific hunting seasons are in place for
non-endangered game animals.
Protection: The right to carry a concealed sidearm or
(much less common) a pump-action shotgun for security or
self-defense. These licenses are vetted by the police before
being issued. The latter option would be allowed only in very
People in this country take guns seriously, of
course, but there is a local joke about the two things that
really scare Belizeans:
on. Even the most laid-back locals show impressive
speed when a drop of rain falls. They can't get under cover
And dogs. In Belize, you
have no stronger weapon for keeping people from entering your
yard or home than a dog.
I have seen fully armed and
armored soldiers bunched at the gateway to a house in the city
(because they were assisting police with an arrest) being held
at bay by the yapping of a little terrier. All their guns were
trained directly on the little guy, but the five soldiers
refused to open the gate to enter the yard until the dog was
So come to Belize, buy a dog, be safe, have fun,
and enjoy life.
Kathleen Peddicord for the Huffington Post