And while murder is only down marginally, major crimes overall are down by 10%. Never too shy to clutch unto a well worn cliche, Williams says this year, the Department has 20/20 vision:

Chester Williams - Commissioner of Police
"Our main objective is always to reduce crime. When we compare our stats to 2018, we have a reduction in crime of a little under 10%. For us, that is an achievement worth mentioning. Yes, we would have wanted it to be better, but I'm sure that you're going to understand the complex situation within which some of the crimes are occurring, that are not in the reach to readily prevent based on law enforcement efforts. But, we try as best as we can to see how we can solve these crimes when they occur. 2019 was indeed challenging. It was a year where some heinous crime, but I must say that I am thankful that for every situation we encountered, our officers were always willing and prepared to respond and responded adequately in terms of bringing calm."

"Now that we're in 2020, we have a 20/20 vision of 2019, and so, we're now going to use that vision to see how we can enhance our efforts for 2020."

Murder Rate Debate

2019 is over - and according to our figures, there were 138 murders, for a murder rate of 34 per hundred thousand inhabitants - which is lower than last year's 37 per hundred thousand, but will still probably work out to one of the top ten highest in the world.

Today in Belmopan, a blustery Commissioner Chester Williams disputed our total, while conceding that whether there were 134 or 138 murders, police have to find a way to do better:

Chester Williams - Commissioner of Police
"We know that the issue of murder is our number 1 priority. And while we see a number of persons on social media condemning the police when a murder occurs, or impute the occurrence to the police, I must say that those accusations of the police in terms of being ineffective are unjustified. And some of the same people who we see always complaining when there is a murder, they are campaigning on social media for there to be one. It seems to me that some media houses believe that if there is no murder to report, there is no news to report."

"We cannot go into 2020 and allow 2020 to be like 2019. And so, operationally, we will be tweaking around some of our efforts. And again, I want to make a plea upon the intoxicating liquor license board. When we release our crime statistics to you all, hopefully on Wednesday, we will be categorizing the different murders to illustrate what was the number 1 cause of murder. And you'll see that alcohol is extremely dominant. There is a reason why alcohol was once an illegal substance. It is because people know of the effect that alcohol can have on one. And so, when it was legalized, it was done and regulated. There was a reason why it was regulated, again because people know of the effect of alcohol. But, if we continue to live in a society that sells and consumes alcohol as if it is not a drug, then we're out for destruction. We're going to continue the push on alcohol sales and consumption. We're not saying that it is to be banned. That would be the ideal thing, but we cannot tell people how to live. So, the least we can do is ensure that the laws that had been put in place to ensure that alcohol is regulated properly, that the liquor licensing board respect the law where that is concern, and ensure that when liquor licenses are issued, extensions are issued, that it is done in conformity with the law."

"The next leading cause after alcohol was domestic situations, and again, we're going to continue the push on addressing domestic violence. We'll also be looking at the gang issue because while for 2019, it is the lowest number of gang murders we have since 2008, we still believe that there is more to be done in terms of containing the gang issue."

You'll hear more about the gang strategy, later on. But, first we go back to the murder rate - which may be high, but Williams says it is still an outlier in the Caribbean:

"In a broader picture with the rest of the world, we have a 138, by our numbers. I don't know if that matches what the police's numbers are."

Chester Williams - Commissioner of Police
"134, if you killed 4 more, then let me know where you have them. I'm going to find them, and we'll charge you for it."

"But, it still will be among one of the highest in the world, when you look for the per-capita rating. Is that a concern for you?"

Chester Williams
"Of course, it is a concern, but we must understand that as I said before, many of the murders that occurred in 2019 are not murders that the police could readily prevent. The murders that police have more control over, are the gang-related murders, and I believe we did exceedingly well in controlling or containing those in 2019. How are we going to know when a person is going to kill his mother and father in their home? How are we going to know when a husband and wife are going to argue, and one kills the other? How can we do that? We must be reasonable in how we put things out. Let me say this, when we look across the Caribbean, Belize is one of the only countries in the Caribbean that has a reduction in murder when compared with 2018. Our murder count is lower than in 2016, 2017, and 2018. 2019 is lower than all those previous 3 years. So, it shows that we did do some good work. Yes, if we're happy with it, the answer is no. And as the Commissioner of Police, I always believe that even I can do more. As much as I did in 2019, I still believe that I can do more, and I'm going to pledge that in 2020, I'm going to push myself and my officers to see how we can do more. Let's take a look at Jamaica. Jamaica had a state of emergency almost the whole of last year. And Jamaica's murder rate went up by 8% last year, compared to 2018. Trinidad, with all the efforts being done in Trinidad, 2019 was the second deadliest year in Trinidad's history, second to 2008. Guyana's murder rate went up by 28%. So, while we have a 6.3% reduction compared to 2018, it is still worthy of mentioning that our brothers in the Caribbean, we are one of the few that do have reduction."

And while the Caribbean as a region was up with murders, in Central America the trend seems to be going down. El Salvador which has had the highest murder rate in the world for many years, is down to a still very high 50.1 murders per hundred murders in 2019. That is down from 103 murders per hundred thousand in 2015. We'll be compiling regional figures as we always do for a full regional picture.

Channel 7