Belize City Minister of Home Affairs addresses gang issue
Belize City has been at the center of territorial gangs and their rivalries, spanning over two decades, with a close to one thousand gang members currently in the old capital. This matter is among several that came up on today’s Morning Show with Minister of Home Affairs, Kareem Musa. According to Minister Musa, who holds responsibility for the Police Department, the gang issue has been growing since the 1980s, and that the collaboration of other agencies are now necessary to curb the gang situation.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “In my opinion over the last three months January, February and March not including April because toward the end of April we did have a gang related shooting. So if you look at the evidence there are no gang related murders or not as many gang related murders happening like before. So something is at play, something is working. There are approximately 980 supposed gang members just in Belize City believe it or not, 29 established gangs. This did not happen in the last two years this happened from 1980′s where you had Majestic Alley building up to George Street then it grew and grew and grew exponentially to the point where we now have 29 gangs. The question is how do you then address that? Do you do Bukele everybody wants you to do Bukele but at the end of the day you only want to do Bukele until somebody comes and knocks on your door and says we will arrest your son for no reason and then you say “Oh my God this is violating my son’s human rights he is not involved in any gang, he got a tattoo when he was 12 years old, but now he’s being arrested he’s an electrician, he has a good job but now he’s being arrested because of a tattoo. So that is a problem that you have with the Bukele approach. That is a completely different situation because those are 10’s of thousands of gang members, 60,000. Wee are dealing with 1,000 supposed gang members in Belize City. What you look at now the region in Trinidad about three weeks ago there was a symposium and the entire symposium was based specifically on this all of government approach and tackling crime as a public health crisis meaning we need to have all departments involved in the fight and it’s crime. Yes the police plays a very important role in responding to crime, in making sure that the criminals are arrested and charged that’s the important role that police play but what about human development? What about the counseling? And the trauma that young men have growing up without a father who died because of gun violence? Who grew up knowing that I come from a particular neighborhood and I know I’m supposed to hate that other side for no apparent reason but we just hate each other and we want to kill each other? That is where other departments come in. Ministry of Education ensuring that our children have free education so all of these things that are now being put in place it’s all part of this all of government approach. And so when you have one or two murderers I cannot assure you that 980 gang members are all reformed and that today because the LIU exists all of them are good boys absolutely not. But it is important to recognize when we have saved a life. When we look at the LIU program and they had a TUBAL skills training that we did over the course course of four months in electrical training, in plumbing, in auto mechanic training and to hear their success stories today that is the follow up that is needed you know? These young men now have jobs because of that and so when all of these different departments start grinding and start working towards fighting crime from the very root, from a child is in the womb up until the child graduates whether they graduate from tertiary institution or graduate from TUBAL or graduate from the military or the police that is what government needs to do. The government needs to step in and make sure that all of the social programs are there to ensure we don’t have what we are having today which is a culmination like I said of decades and decades of abandonment and now we’re trying to put everything in place. So I don’t get dissuaded when you have a few murders because it will happen let us be real about that. But at the end of the day you look at the numbers back in 2019 out of the 130 murders at least seventy were gang related that is a huge number. That is 50% of the overall number of murders and so this LIU program is only a city based at the moment, it’s a pilot project dealing with Belize City it doesn’t address what is happening in Dangriga right now, what is happening maybe in Roaring Creek at times, what is happening in other parts of the country it’s focused on this three mile radius where all of these murders were happening and so I can say that we are seeing success and I understand people want crime to end, I am totally understanding of that. “