By Marion V. Ali
The countrywide murder rate for 2015 will be lower than it was in 2013, when the tally for the first time in almost a decade reached 99, Sergeant Mark Flowers, Chief of the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) predicted this week.
Flowers, in an exclusive discussion with The Reporter, said the GSU is reconfiguring itself to have a whole different approach to deal with the public, whether it be gangs or routine intelligence operations across the country.
Already, Flowers said, the fruits of the new strategy have begun to pay off, with the total murder count for January of this year at seven, fewer even than the 2013 numbers, when it stood at 10. The prediction has to be viewed with cautious optimism, but Flowers does not expect it to spiral into the numbers that Belize has shown over the last five years, when we were dubbed as one of the most murderous countries in the world.
In Belize City, considered to be the root of gang activity, the murder count for last month was four, with another in San Pedro and the remaining two in the west. Of these, Flowers pointed out, none was gang-related.
One of the new strategies being applied since the start of this year is “a more civil approach through modern training” on par with international standards, Flowers said.
The Gang Sup-pression Unit now employs a crimes information management system, which is intelligence-based and forms part of its roving forward operating base known as “Raven”.
GSU’s mobile unit has the capability to diffuse any situation that may arise anywhere in the country, Flowers said. The other five districts are also GSU-equipped to deal with any scenario that might present itself.
With the new strategy, Flowers says the image of the GSU should not “carry the stigma” it has had. At the same time, the unit will conduct its work with the same zeal as it did, targeting street gangs in order to keep crime and violence at an all-time minimum.
“With these methodologies in place, we project fewer murders, fewer incidents for 2015”, Flowers remarked. “We continue to work with leaders of major gangs who have come to the GSU to say they don’t want to be a part of gang activity anymore”, he revealed. The murder rate for January is testament to the strides the unit has made, Flowers concluded.
GSU members continuously receive training locally and abroad and by mid-February, their numbers will have expanded by 25 percent, Flowers shared.