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How Will Police Contain Soaring Murder Rate In 2017?
Wed, January 11, 2017

For the past two weeks we've been reporting the unofficial murder total for 2016 as 137.  Well, today, the official numbers were released and police say there were 138 murders.  That's a 16% increase and the second highest murder total ever recorded in Belize.  The Commissioner broke it down today:..

Allen Whylie - Commissioner of Police
"Murders constituted a total of 138 incidents for the year 2016 country wide in comparison to 119 incidents which recorded in the year 2015. This shows an increase of 19 incidents or 15.9%. Analysis for period under review 2016 by region indicates the Belize district recorded the highest with 70 incidents compared to 66 in 2015, an increase of 4 incidents. The second highest district was Cayo with a total of 34 incidents in 2016 compared to incidents in 2015 reflecting an increase of 7 incidents. Of the 138 murders of 2016, 51 cases have been solved to date, 87 cases are currently under investigation; as a result of those cases solve police have arrested and charged 65 person; namely 60 Belizeans, 2 Salvadorans, 1 Honduran, 1 Guyanese and 1 Guatemalan. 81 were by the use of firearms, 40 were by the use of machete or knives, 2 were utilising stones, 2 were utilising a blunt object, 1 was with the use of galvanised pipe and 12 were caused by unknown weapons. We have classified of those murders 17 we've classified as gang related, 10 we've classified as domestic jealousy, we've had 10 for robberies, we've had 22 for disputes, we have 7 for revenge, we have 9 categorised as drug related, we have 1 as a witness of a murder, we have 2 for burglary, we have 1 where we believe an innocent by stander was killed and we have 1 also as mistaken identity, 6 as retaliation, 1 as a theft, 1 as a rape and 50 we do not know the reasons as to why those incidents may have occurred."

There have been arrests for 65 of those 2016 murders, meaning there have been no arrests for the other 72. The Cayo and Belize Districts recorded the greatest increase in murders.

So, the murder rate spiked in 2016, and 2017 is off to a very violent start.  What will police to make sure there's not another record high?  That's what we asked today:..

Allen Whylie - Commissioner of Police
"Well definitely the incident of murders in our view is too high such a small society and yes the plan will be announced will have numbers in terms of where we would want to cut that. You cannot be overly ambitious because many of the murders that occurred were crimes of opportunities and many cases were not preventable from the police side. You must understand that there are other issues that drive the level of crimes out there in particular murders because of the various disagreements between the different groups."

Hon. Elodio Aragon - Minister of State, Home Affairs
"I am confident that we will do that 2017 will be the year we begin to really focus on the issue and bring about a change in terms of the statistics. So hopefully by next year we look at the statistics and we know that we're working and strategic plan that we are putting in place will have the impact that everybody expect."

But, there are more uniformed police than ever, and the department just got a batch of new patrol trucks.  So, then, what is the problem: why can't effective policing curtail crime?  That's what we asked today.

Jules Vasquez
"Is it that the crime is so hard to curtail or is it that the department is engaging in the wrong strategies or doing the wrong thing to curtail crime?"

Hon. Elodio Aragon - Minister of State, Home Affairs
"Yes we've had an increase in police officers men and women on the ground, we also had an increase in the amount of responsibilities that come to the police department as our municipalities, as our responsibility widens but I do think that when we look at the statistics we would like to see these statistics to be less than what they are today. What I can tell you is that the ministry and the police department is looking strategically to how to address this situation and one of our biggest problem right now in this country has to do with gangs and gun related crime and these are the things that we will tackle with our new strategic plan to address that situation as best as possible that will bring about a more focus attention to dealing with that issue. Though those plans definately are being worked on as we speak as we'll be unveiling that hopefully in February to the media and to the public and we hope with that that will give us a direct impact upon gangs and gun related crime."

George Lovell - CEO, Ministry of Home Affairs
"The police can be out in the numbers or even in larger numbers and that in itself will not bring down the level of crime especially the murders that we are seeing. I think we need to look at this from a whole of society standpoint."

Hon. Elodio Aragon - Minister of State, Home Affairs
"The fact is it's not only for the police department, all the criminal justice systems have to come to bare on the problem at hand."

Notably, there were 235 shooting incidents nationally, and 160 of those were in the city, which is an increase of 10%.  Toledo District, by contrast only had three shooting incidents.

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