Murders, major crime down, says ComPol; but so are arrests

By Marion Ali
Assistant Editor

The crime statistics for 2017, at least up to the end of June, show that major crimes are down, compared to the end of June, 2016. The Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie, shared the numbers with the media on Tuesday, and his boss, Minister of Police, Elodio Aragon, explained that the Ministry and the Department are placing renewed emphasis on the areas that need strengthening.

The numbers are provided on a chart for comparative review, but analytically, one observes that of the number of crimes reported, the number of arrests made were significantly lower in every category, with below half the number of arrests made for those crimes.

For instance, for the number of murders (70) so far this year, only 31 arrests have been made.Of the 8 rapes reported, only 2 arrests have been made; and of the 92 cases of robberies, only 25 arrests have been made.
There were a total of 866 major crimes up to June 30, 2017, compared to 1,070 over the same period in 2016. Of those 866 major crimes committed up to mid-year this year, there were 234 arrests made.

The Belize district recorded 38 cases of murder between January 1 and June 30 of this year, compared to 33 cases during the same period last year. The Belize district also had 3 cases of rape, compared to 5 for the same period last year; and 29 cases of robbery, compared to 50 in 2016. There were 83 people shot this year, as opposed to 76 last year. Overall, the Belize district had 475 cases of major crimes during January and June 2017, and 567 cases in 2016.

The Cayo district recorded a total of 156 major crimes in the first six months of 2017; compared 222 last year. Corozal had 45 cases of major crimes committed between January and June this year, compared to 35 last year. The increase in number, according to Commissioner Whylie, was as a result of more thefts this year in that jurisdiction. Corozal also had 6 murders up to June 30, compared to 5 in the same period last year. Orange Walk recorded 37 major crimes committed up to the end of June, compared to 108 last year. Stann Creek also showed a significant increase in major crimes during the first six months of this year with 127 cases, and 94 last year. Toledo had 26 cases of major crimes up to the end of June, in comparison to 44 last year.

Minister of Police, Elodio Aragon, said the Department is doing what it can with what it has, focusing more now on establishing an anti-gang legislation. “We are working on a strategic plan – it’s been some time now that we have not unveiled this because some of the legislative reforms that we are doing take time…Also we have a Witness Anonymity Act that we want to introduce. Our biggest challenge is about successful prosecution…We have to go through the process in ensuring that…what is being asked to be enacted meets with the Constitution and will give us the impact that we are looking for,” Aragon said.

The Department is also formulating an anti-gang task force – an investigative unit that will look at serious and repeat offenders, the Minister said. Boosting the Department’s Forensics Department and coupled with the other 100 plus surveillance cameras to be installed next year through a loan from CABEI (Central American Bank for Economic Integration) should add to better policing.

And while the conviction rate for murders remain dismally low (well below 50 percent of the number of arrests) Aragon said that to acquire DNA capabilities is far too expensive for Belize; and that only about 30 cases of murder that have required DNA-testing. He said the challenge is not in the collection of DNA samples, it is in the analysis of those samples.
“We all have to look at value for money. We are talking about what – maybe close to a couple million dollars for a DNA lab to be established here in Belize…The equipment – the laboratories – that are needed, all of these things cost money; and when you look at value for money at this point in time, we have not gotten to the situation where we feel that a DNA laboratory here in Belize – the here and now – is required,” Aragon said.

In those instances where the analysis is required for court purposes, Belize sends them to Jamaica to be done, he added. In the meantime, he informed that the Police Department continues to train its officers to collect DNA samples.

The Minister also spoke of the need to improve the systems in place in the Forensics Department. Strengthening the know-how in the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS) will add to the prosecution in cases where guns and ammunition are used in crimes, he indicated. “We have the equipment here; we have the people who are trained in it,” he said.

The Anonymity Act, when it takes effect in the coming months, will seek to protect witnesses, and this, Aragon believes, will enable the police to do a far superior job in evidence-gathering.

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