Belize may see a decline in its murder rate for the first time in seven years. That’s what an analysis of the numbers is showing. Technical Coordinator of the Belize Crime Observatory Adele Ramos plugged in the crime stats into GIS applications to get more insight into this year’s major crimes, zoning in on the murders committed so far this year. Ramos shines a light on the way the pandemic and states of emergency impacted the murders. But while all these had an impact on the crime, the deaths associated with the pandemic continue to surge. Here’s the story.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
Data compiled by the Belize Crime Observatory show that murders are down in Belize for 2020. It’s a shift that hasn’t been seen since 2010. In the past ten years, the country recorded more than one hundred murders a year. What’s different in 2020? What we know is that two things happened. A State of Emergency was declared in south side Belize City at the end of March, where dozens of gang members were jailed and police carried out a number of operations in the crime hotspots. At around the same time, Belize recorded its first COVID-19 case and in the months that followed a number of COVID-19 policing measures were implemented. Adele Ramos, the Technical Coordinator of the Belize Crime Observatory used crime stats from the Belize Police Department to compare the number of murders committed in Belize City before and after the pandemic was recorded in Belize. For example, a closer look at the numbers in Belize City shows that of the fifty-one murders reported in Belize between January and June, twenty-two of those murders were reported in the City, of which twenty were before the pandemic policing measures, while only two were recorded after those measures were put in place for that period.
Adele Ramos, Technical Coordinator, Belize Crime Observatory
“This slide shows you the pre and post COVID scenario with respect to Belize City and these zones that you see there on the Belize City map, we map them using the information obtained from the police department, so the state of emergency zone on south side, you notice where you had the murders occurring before the whole COVID-19 measures took effect and then from that point on to the end of June, there were only two murders in Belize City, so you saw a substantial shift in what was happening in Belize City.
There is another bit of interesting information here when we look at where we are at least up to the end of October 2020 compared to the same time last year, Belize City accounted for thirty-eight percent of the murders nationally. For the same period this year, Belize City accounted for forty-three percent, so even though there has been a decline in the national level and there has been a decline in Belize City generally, the proportion has increased by five percentage points.”
But while there are fewer murders recorded in Belize City since the start of the year, there were some parts of the country that still recorded an increase. Turning to the national level, the Belize Crime Observatory’s analysis of the data shows an almost twenty-five percent decline in murders when comparing January to October 2019 to January to October of 2020 with one hundred nine to eighty-two murders recorded respectively.
“So if we look here at the two maps side by side, January to September 2020, January to October 2020, we see where Corozal and Stann Creek recorded increase relative to the same period last year, so the darker the green, then greater the increase, light green, almost white represents of course your declines.
So where are we today, nationally, murders have declined 24.77%. So, between January and October 2019, there were one hundred and nine murders; January to October 2020 there were 82 murders registered.”
In the last ten years, Belize’s murder rate has only dipped below thirty per hundred thousand inhabitants once in 2013 when it fell to twenty-eight point thirty and ever since then the rate trended above thirty which is considered significantly high. So, if the decline in murders continues for the remainder of this year that would put Belize’s murder rate the lowest it has been in seven years.
“Based on what we have been seeing and if the trend continues, this would be the first time Belize’s murder rate falls below civil war levels. So, the projection is that on the current trajectory that the number of murders could possibly remain below one hundred for 2020, resulting in a murder rate around twenty-five to one hundred thousand inhabitants.”
But while COVID-19 and its related policing measures have contributed to a decline in deaths by murder so far for this year, the disease itself has claimed more lives in the span of a few months. The first COVID-19 related death was reported on April fifth and the second death was recorded a few days later that month. It wasn’t until almost four months later, on August fourteenth, that Belize recorded the third COVID-19 related death. In August alone, eleven persons died as a result of COVID-19 related complications. The month of September followed with fourteen deaths. In October, the deaths had more than doubled with thirty-two recorded. November alone has proven to be the deadliest month for COVID-19 in Belize. There are sixty-one deaths recorded up to Monday, November twenty-third. That’s an average of more than two deaths per day. Of the one hundred and twenty deaths, majority are recorded in northern Belize – with Orange Walk registering forty-two point five percent – that’s fifty-one deaths. Corozal follows with twenty-six deaths. The Belize District follows with nineteen deaths, that’s a total of seventeen in the city and two in San Pedro; followed by Cayo with eighteen deaths and Stann Creek and Toledo with the least number of deaths – three apiece. Of those deaths, seventy percent are males – that is eighty-four are men, while thirty-six are women. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.