Those in Government, the decision makers as well as the press and Belizean people all equally agree that the escalating crime rate in Belize is intolerable. Of the different problems exacerbating the situation, witness intimidation has over the years been most often cited by the press, the public and officialdom alike. The culture of witness intimidation is preventing crimes being prosecuted and has successfully allowed the criminal fraternity to create a climate of fear in which they are able to operate with impunity; witness intimidation is an important and key strategy by the criminal community in ensuring that the balance of power remains in their favour.
‘If the police are failing to even apprehend the murderers, build a proper case file and bring the accused before the courts, what does it matter if they are tried by a judge alone instead of a judge and jury?
It is not that Belizean juries are perverse and allowing guilty men go free, it is that the cases collapse when they finally get to court or are routinely withdrawn by prosecutors because of the chilling fact of witness intimidation.
Witness intimidation is at the heart of the problem, not juries. Fix the witness intimidation problem and conviction rates will begin to rise.
Preventative detention allows the authorities to detain suspected criminals, in certain circumstances, for up to 90 days. One could see with this if the police department had the intelligence network and wherewithal to intercept the criminal masterminds, detain them and thus interrupt crime before it can be perpetrated. But if the police still struggle with basic law enforcement, one can only despair at the notion of their utilizing more sophisticated instruments of law enforcement.
The citizenry feels that it is vulnerable to random acts of homicide and that state is powerless to protect or detect’ (Godfrey Smith 2011).www.flashpointbelize.com/flashpointarticles/tabid/103/EntryId/129/The-Economics-of-Crime.aspx
There is no doubt that crime is escalating in Belize and it does not help to know that those in power or those qualified to make changes have no real solutions. It also does not help knowing that the rising crime rate has been noted and covered by the press for years now with no effect. People on this forum are right to be alarmed – there is no one there to protect you. It is each to his own…the tipping point has been reached and now it is going to be hard to get crime back on track without everyone pitching in. Throwing stones and blaming is not going to make an impact; that’s just part of the culture in Belize and does not lead to action – quite the opposite – it leads to apathy.
Nor does it help when people compare Belize crime stats with those in other countries and conclude that the crime rate is no better and no worse than anywhere else. This only increases apathy and lulls us into complacency. This attitude plays into the hands of criminals because it suggests there isn’t a problem – at least not until that person is hit. Even if tomorrow 20 tourists were killed, robbed, or raped in Belize there will be those who will still tell us - it could be worse. The loss of life of one single tourist is never acceptable – nor is the loss of a single Belizean life. I realize that people are protecting their investment in tourism and real estate by assuming this stance however if Belize is going to be an important tourist destination or build a robust real estate market then it needs to be as close to a crime free zone as possible. Camouflaging the situation can never be a genuine strategy as eventually the word will get out – Belize is dangerous – stay away. Denial creates a smoke screen where criminals are protected from detection. It is a form of collusion with the criminal community because it prevents action and wilfully disguises the true state of affairs.
There isn’t the finance in Belize to entirely upgrade Policing in terms of equipment and expertise so it’s a case of working together with the police – getting to know your local Police Officers by name – having community meetings linked in to nationwide meetings – creating a structure where people can input their skills and knowledge. There is so much information and help out there – that is if people really want to work together. The options are limitless. Crime is committed in the community and the community knows exactly who and where the perpetrators are. They also know which families are unable to hold together and are involved in or likely to be involved in crime - and as a result need intervention care.
Recognising the importance of community police partnerships the UK Government is investing in community based crime prevention networks.
'We will play our part too by making the police more accountable to the public they serve and ensure that local policing priorities are focussed on what local people want, not on what central government thinks they want. We have also introduced the first ever nationwide street level crime maps which, along with regular beat meetings, mean the public can hold their local force to account not just every four years but every day '.
‘Since January the public have been able to see what crime and antisocial behaviour is happening on their streets via www.police.uk(Opens in a new window) and find out how to contact their local police if they have concerns. Through the introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners from May 2012 the government is also giving power back to the people, giving them a proper say in how their local area is policed, and at the same time freeing up the police from central government targets and red tape to help officers get back out on the streets fighting crime.’www.homeoffice.gov.uk/media-centre/press-releases/14M-to-empower-communities