Belize is world renowned for the Barrier Reef and Blue Hole. However, the darker side of that coin is that Belize infamous for consistently ranking amongst the countries with the highest murder per capita on the planet. It’s a dubious crown for a country that refers to itself as “The Jewel”. But with a murder conviction rate of less than three percent and a Tier 3 ranking on the U.S. Department of State’s 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report, Belize also suffered a suspension of (H2) work visas as punishment since “the country does not fully meet the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.” . The ban will last for 1 year, and there are extremely visible signs being projected not only at the citizens but presumably also to the US to show an effort to combat crime. The Ministry of National Security has engaged in a series of consultations with various sectors of the public seeking input on charting the best way forward in addressing matters of crime, citizen security and other national security matters. The process led to a National Citizen Security Summit held today in which representatives from various sectors of the community including unions, nongovernmental organizations, chamber, churches and other groups took part. The various stakeholders looked at existing national security policies and strategies and made recommendations to improve on matters like citizen security. Minister of National Security John Saldivar said consultations with various stakeholders started since April of this year.
John Saldivar, Minister of National Security: “It has certainly helped to have us focused on what is important to our citizenry is stakeholders who are out there so when we get feedback it always helps us to know where to put our focus and so as you may have heard earlier in my presentation we have already taken some steps, we’ve already for instance increased the length of time for training of our police officers, we’ve begun collaborating with the Belize National Teachers Union in terms of classes and training also for our police department. We have established a task force to investigate police corruption, we’ve established an internal watchdog in terms of citizen complaints against police. What I’m hoping to happen out of this is to get some concrete solutions and some concrete actions and projects that will help to bring this crime situation under control especially when it comes to timelines I want us to be very firm in terms of how much time we have to implement what we are implementing, who is going to be responsible for it because it’s not just going to be the police department or the Ministry of National Security ,it’s going to be all of us in this.
Minister Saldivar said these consultations are ongoing. The Minister adds that the National Crime Fighting Strategy 2018-2020 that was presented by the Belize Police Department in February is subject to changes following the summit and ongoing consultations. The initiative has so far led to more collaboration between the Ministry and groups like the private sector, which has offered to help in several programs under the Belize Police Department.