BELIZE CITY—Belize boasted a notable reprieve in homicides in 2013, but the recent spate of killings, particularly those which have occurred since the end of May, underscore the fact that the lack of sustained and effective measures to tackle the persistent crisis in Belize City continues to pose a major national security risk.
The families of two-time Belizean Cross Country champ, Ernest “Jawmaine” Meighan, 42, and honor roll student Chryslin Gladden, 17, recently killed a week apart, know this risk all too well, and some persons who have been discussing this topic in the public domain are even calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty.
Of note is that one of Meighan’s daughters was recently remanded in connection with the murder of another Belize City female, and there are reports that prior to his death, Meighan had received death threats but was adamant not to let those threats force him into hiding.
60% of murders have happened within less than 2 square miles, where two of the major police stations and several policing posts, including a mobile police station, are located.
In this article, we would like to underscore the fact that the homicide crisis spans the heart of Belize City’s Southside, but we venture as well to suggest that it may be getting even more entrenched.
Whereas the number of homicides dropped from 145 in 2012 to 99 in 2013, April to August has seen an uptick in gun violence and murders in Belize City. Police had said that the shootings which erupted around early June, including a shootout at a graduation party, were caused by feuding gangs.
We documented the murders recorded over the last 11 weeks, ending with the two homicides which occurred on Saturday, and what is clear is that the pattern we observed and documented in 2011 continues to persist today, even with the introduction of new social programs and laws said to be aimed at fixing this crisis.
Back in January 2011, we looked at official homicide figures for 2010. In the article titled “The bleeding heart of the Southside”, we noted that the number of 2010 homicides in the entire Belize District area was nearly 5 times that of any other district, and for Belize City, we saw that the homicide rate was nearly 4 times that of any one district. You can find the online version of that story HERE.
The last 11 weeks have seen 25 homicides, and 18 of them happened right here in Belize City, with 15 of them (or 60%) happening right on the Southside, within less than two square miles of Belize, a sparsely populated country which spans 8,867 square miles. That’s right – within less than 2 square miles, where two of the major police stations and several policing posts, including a mobile police station, are located! It may not surprise you that this is the same pattern we found back in 2011, when 62% of shootings that happened nationally had occurred in the same zone.
However, this fact must not escape you: that whereas the area in focus recorded a total of 23 homicides in 2010, even with armed Belize Defence Force soldiers back on the streets, Belize City is has recorded 18 murders for the past 11 weeks alone.
Three-and-a-half years ago, the then Albert Division area representative, Mark Espat, noted that the crisis cannot merely be solved with beefed-up policing or the introduction of more draconian laws. He stressed that there must be a concerted community effort, led by the government, to ensure that the socioeconomic problems at the heart of this burgeoning crisis are weeded out. This need has become even more urgent in 2014.
We have more details on the homicide crisis on our interactive online map HERE.