With only four days into the New Year, residents of the old capital are becoming concerned over the spike in murders. While 2016 ended with one hundred and thirty eight murders, 2017 has now registered five homicides within its first week. Minister with responsibility for the Belize Police Department, Elodio Aragon says he too is concerned and with that came several meetings with Police Commanders yesterday and today in an effort to re-strategize and curb the gun violence.
“It’s always a challenge and you know we would not have wanted to start the year the way we have started. I think we have had five murders within three days of the new year and that is very unfortunate but that is a reality of the situation on the ground. At the police department we are working closely to ensure that we curb this situation as we speak I know that there have been a lot of things done for the immediate response to this situation. I know there are a lot of operations taking place right now. From our operational units both GSU, the MIT the SPU along with the personnel on the ground in Belize there are a number of raids that will be taking place. We are targeting personnel that are directly involved and their associates, and those that are directly in the incidents that are occurring to try to curb this situation so these are some of the things we are working on the intel side to be prepared in terms of dealing with the situation maybe before they happen. I know there are a lot of things happening now where we have stepped up operations I know the commissioner was here yesterday dealing with the commanders to ensure that the planning phase in terms of ensuring that we curb and deal with the situation and those plans are being effected. We stepped it up early last night to ensure that we do our best to ensure that we do our best in terms of dealing with the situation and that is what we are going to do as a police department and the government of course is always concerned about these things because these are the things that impact our community, upon our quality of life so it is a concern to government and I’d like to tell the country and Belizeans that we are working on a strategic plan. Remember these incidents that have occurred are some things that we would not have wanted and we have to look at a strategic plan for the medium and long term, that is what we are working and of course we will be revealing those plans as soon as they are ready to be revealed and hopefully by the end of this month or early next month and we will be holding a press conference to reveal some of the strategic plans to deal with the crime situation.”
For years now, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams have been trying the intervention approach. It is an approach that has brought much criticism and with the recent spike, some members of the public have been advocating for more aggression and less intervention. We asked Minister Aragon to weigh in on that sentiment.
“Well I’ll have to be frank with you. The crime situation is complex, it’s not a striaght forward answer and I do think that the approach cannot be one sided it has to be comprehensive approach on this thing. We have to deal with the youths at risk before they get involved with gangs and of course there are gang members out there that no matter what we do we will never bring them back to the normalcy of life in terms of being a good citizen and those people will have to be dealt with by the law and be dealt with by the system but we cannot just look at that situation and say that we will go and be aggressive at the situation and forego dealing with the youths at risk and prevent them from gun related violence. I think that what we have to do is look at the comprehensive approach to dealing with this situation. This is not a problem unique to Belize it has been affecting other Caribbean nations and nations across the board and we have to look at what are the approaches that have been taken, what are the things that are working and what are not working and look at what we can do to impact crime in Belize and I do think that it is something that has to be really studied and like I said a comprehensive crime strategy is being looked at at this point in time to look at the way forward not only within the next few months but it is something that will impact crime for the long haul but at this point in time the situation is that we are doing what we have to do to deal with it and I understand the public’s view that we have to be more aggressive and I will tell you that the police department has no problem in doing what it has to do to deal with the situation, we have done it before in the past and we will do it again if necessary and I will tell you at this point in time the police department has stepped up operations to deal with the crime situation and that will be the case.”
Another comment being made in market of public opinion is that the police and the government are the ones to blame for the current crime situation. Here is how Minister Aragon responded to the blame game currently being debated on social media.
In the last four days five men have been slain in Belize City with the most recent taking place at around seven thirty last night on the south side.