BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 3, 2016–The Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs, George Lovell, has confirmed to Amandala the tragic news that the 2016 murder count has already exceeded the count for the year 2015. Last Tuesday, Lovell reported that 115 homicides had been reported for the year to date. During last week, there was one murder on San Pedro, pushing the number up to 116. Then over the weekend, four more murders were reported, pushing the number to 120. The year 2015 recorded 119 homicides, which represented a 2% decline from the 2014 figure.
Lovell said that the state of crime is a matter of concern for the new minister of state with responsibility for police, Elodio Aragon, Jr.
“Some time next week, we have intention to do some media rounds, to lay down what our new minister of state’s plans are to address some of the concerns that he has and the entire nation has as it relates to not just major crimes but in particular corruption,” Lovell told us.
He said that the problem of corruption needs to be addressed “so we can bring back trust in the Police Department.”
Yesterday, it was reported that a police officer had been detained for questioning in connection with the weekend murder of Jeon Peebles, 25, of Belize City. Relatives had reported that the deceased had been picked up by police before he was found murdered. The matter is still under investigation by police.
Lovell told us that in the days ahead, they will make public plans to address problems which have been causing the department “to get a bad name in the eyes of the public…” He cited among them reports of police officers accused of extortion and “a number of things that we are not proud about.”
“They would go through the system and come right back into the Police Department,” he added.
Lovell said that “…murder is one of the other focus areas that [Aragon] wants for us to look at and one of his observations and the direction that he has given to myself and the Commissioner of Police, is that we need to address the whole aspect of the weapon of choice—which seems to be guns—used in most of the incidences of murders that we have experienced and try and reduce over time the rate and occurrence of murders with weapons, as one of our focus areas going forward.”
Last week, Lovell was part of the team which unveiled the Belize Crime Observatory, an online platform which for the first time in Belize gives public access to crime data, current by month, in this case, up to September 2016.
The data reveals that the murder count (for the year to date) has increased in all municipalities, as well as all rural areas, with the exception of rural Cayo. Furthermore, the murder rates are highest in Belize City and San Pedro, with rates of 67 and 60 per 100,000, respectively, based on the full year’s data for 2015. Roughly a third of the 2016 homicides have occurred in the Belize City area.
The CEO told us that the Police Department can make use of the analytical information provided via the Belize Crimes Observatory, in order to make strategic decisions going forward.