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CRIME IN BELIZE: WILL WE EVER BE HAPPY AGAIN?

It is inconceivable, in my view, to address such a mortally broad topic and do it right.  I will attempt to write only on how I feel and share what I think could be some possible causes of crime in our country.

The information herein is gathered from the experiences I had growing up in my country, conversations with my elders, what I now observe and experience as a parent and my research that gives food for thought.

I referred above to a “mortally broad topic,” because I liken crime to a body stricken with cancer. Before the cancer spreads, much effort is concentrated to attack and fight the mass, wherever it is. And the fight Is still an ongoing battle.

Today, with various forms of advancement, life has become complex. As the human mind develops with the changes over time, new crimes are emerging and the “traditional” crimes are disappearing fast. Crime, it seems, is an inherent part of the human experience and now an inevitable phenomenon in society. It is like a curse on mankind that we have to get rid of. But the age-old question is, how do we rid mankind of the curse? Basing the response to crime on the premise that prevention is better than cure is an approach that does not produce positive results quickly.

I could think of three main factors that have contributed to the escalation of crime in Belize. There is a common characteristic underlying all three:  We were not prepared, we had no plan,

a. Our Attainment of SELF-GOVERNMENT and then INDEPENDENCE

b. The Devastation of HURRICANE HATTIE

c. GLOBALIZATION/COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY

While I am proud of getting our Independence, there was no strategic plan for what would occur afterwards. Why do I say this? I did not need to go to our archives to get pictures and information on life before Independence. In some areas (most areas), we have not changed – 40 years and still no potable water, no electricity in a number of areas; when it rains communication is at a standstill. Our people are discriminated against, not because they cause it on themselves. Simply put, many are victims of circumstances and just fight to survive. That is what they know and what they’ve learned to do best. (B) AND (C) SIMPLY SERVED TO DIG THE HOLE DEEPER. This remains today. Thinking back, I dare venture to say this began the great divide between the ‘haves and have-nots’. If I am wrong, then I stand corrected.

However, no need for me to be a scratched record and repeat the obvious, except to say that to me it is clear. Prevention of crime is a NATIONAL PRIORITY. So, here is some food for thought:

1. One suggestion would be that we must weave a new “social fabric”, strong enough to withstand the stresses of a rapidly changing society. But to do so, Government has to move away from a mode of crisis management and reaction and come up with a new effective plan to reduce crime to make it possible to achieve sustainable success well into the next century.

2. Presently, crime and violence are now regarded as an acceptable norm of resolving social issues, and political and domestic conflicts. This, compounded by historical poverty and below-standard living conditions, serves to increase crime. There is a dire need, therefore, for Government to fast- track housing programmes to alleviate the living conditions of its people with an aim to restore dignity to a long-hurting portion of its populace. Such a programme also would provide job opportunities.

3. Improve street lighting in poorly lit areas. This could be a way of brightening peoples’ lives and encouraging them to stay home with their families.

4. A sad observation is that when the victims are not given due respect and family members are treated roughly, this only leads to increased retribution of violence or other crimes in the domestic areas. The human touch can make great strides in preventing repeated occurrences.

5. In a number of instances, the ’haves’ and those in authority, find it as raw humour to belittle the ’have nots’ for their ‘imperfections’ in one moment and use them as their ‘go for’ in another moment. If this is not a crime of mental abuse, then you tell me what is. Familiar with the statement, speaking with a double tongue?

The Government no doubt has its agenda full in its strategically laid out plan of action for combatting and resolving this curse that afflicts our society. Indeed, there is no single cause of crime in our country, since it would appear that different crimes have different root causes, but worse, it seems that what is a crime for one is not considered a crime for another.

The way I see it, I dread to think that we need to rebuild a new society rather than try to normalize something that has never been normal for more than a quarter of a century. The magnitude of the challenge cannot be emphasized enough.  It requires commitment, a clear vision, bold and HONEST leadership from all walks of government institutions, and major support from, and participation by, civil society. If we want longevity and a sustainable future for our children and our children’s children, we first need to look within ourselves and ask if we are willing to change.

Opinion piece by Teresita Rudon

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