Belize Hosts Annual Forensic Science Symposium: Focus on Public Engagement

Belize Hosts Annual Forensic Science Symposium: Focus on Public Engagement

The National Forensic Science Services (NFSS) and the University of Belize held the fourth annual Belize Forensic Science Symposium today in the City of Belmopan. The event brought together experts from various fields of science to participate in panel discussions on forensics, public health, and public safety. NFSS Executive Director, Gian Cho says unlike previous years, the three-day conference centered on engaging the public on important national issues. 

Gian Cho, Executive Director, National Forensic Science Service: “We wanted to shift the focus rather than talking about how to analyze evidence, how to reconstruct a shooting scene we wanted to shift the focus so the public can actually relate to what we’re talking about. So things about firearm gun control, things about gun violence, things about the importance of investing in scientific research and DNA analysis in country, things about road safety fatal road traffic accidents. Forensics does assist in investigation with road safety but we’re pulling data from the public health system, from the road safety projects to see and compare trends for instance what is our fatal RTA rate compared to other countries. We’ll be talking about suicides and again suicides is an important discussion right now and prevention of suicide. The Ministry of Health just launched a suicide prevention plan. There’s the forensic component in terms of investigating the death and confirming if it is suicide or homicide. So we’re looking at data aspects as well and then gender based violence including sexual violence. Just this week we did a training for doctors on how to examine survivors of sexual violence but we’re also adding the component of regional rates of gender based violence, some of our colleagues from other government ministries will be here talking bout safe houses etc how support for survivors of gender based violence is provided. As well as the issue of femicides. One of the sponsors of this symposium InforSegura they study femicide rates across the region. Femicide is a specific example of where data is lacking in Belize. I went through all the different topics to show you how we’re infusing a focus on data for citizens security so that policy makers can make informed decisions.”

Minister of Home Affairs, Kareem Musa, noted that forensic data plays a major role in solving crimes and securing convictions. He spoke about the need for stakeholders to work together to advance the field and enhance the capabilities of the country’s forensics lab. 

Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs: “At the Ministry of Home Affairs we constantly enrich our policy making and decision making processes by sharpening our focus through an evidence based lens. In order for us to implement effective programs that will reduce crime and violence in Belize as well as to take an all of government approach aimed at reducing preventable injury and death such data informed discussions like ones had today will continue to reverberate within the halls of government and certainly have a positive impact on the services we provide to the public. Data in its myriad forms has become an indispensable tool in the pursuit of justice. From crime statistics and forensic evidence to offender profiles, recidivism rates, data provide us with invaluable insights that inform decision making, drive policy reforms and improve outcomes for both victims and offenders. By harnessing the power of data we can better understand the root causes of crime, identify patterns of criminal behavior and allocate resources more effectively to prevent and combat criminal activity. From analyzing trends in crime hotspots and evaluating the efficacy of intervention programs to assessing the impact of sentencing guidelines data empowers us to make appropriate and targeted decisions. Moreover data  plays a vital role in promoting transparency, accountability and fairness within the criminal justice system.” 

This year’s event was held under the theme, “Leveraging Data for evidence-based decision making at the policy level”.  It was centered on professional development, public outreach, and public education. The symposium was funded by the United Nations Development Programme and the United States Agency for International Development.

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