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National Security Minister opines on crime and perception

Posted: Friday, July 19, 2019. 5:22 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Even before this week’s countrywide crime spike, Minister of National Security John Saldivar, by social media, was trying to reassure the public that crime is not nearly as bad as we think.
As of the end of June (though official information has yet to be released), according to Saldivar, the classified “major crimes” of murder, burglary, theft, and robbery all declined between January and June of this year when compared to last year. Murders were down nearly 20 percent; burglaries, nearly 23 percent; robbery, nearly 19 percent; and theft, more than 32 percent.
Since the start of July, no less than 12 suspicious deaths have been reported, of which nine can be counted as murder – the exceptions being the deaths of Fidel Bardalez in Alta Vista, Stann Creek District, for which a minor has been charged with manslaughter; the discovery of missing youth Doren Grinage (or at least, half of what is believed to be his remains); and the officer-involved shooting death of Allyson Major, Jr., just the other evening. This is on the back of 18 murders in the month of June.

More worryingly for the Minister and his Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, Belize has not seen a year with less than 100 murders since 2013 (99, after a record 145 in 2012), and the figure has trended up in every year but one since 113 in 2014, then a slight dip to 108 in 2015; in 2016, 137; 142 in 2017 and 143 for 2018.

To be fair, Saldivar has been minister for all of that period with the exception of when he was replaced by Wilfred Elrington after the William “Danny” Mason affair in 2016, up to March of 2018 when the ministries of Home Affairs and Defence were once again united. Williams, meanwhile, can be credited as Commander of Eastern Division (South) up to his reassignment to Professional Standards Branch, which began a meteoric rise to the number one cop in all the land.

Saldivar insists that “(While) there is much more work to be done… our strategy is working. Now, the 18 murders of this past June is alarming and though there is not much the police could have done to prevent most of them, we cannot dismiss the effect it has had on the populace and their sense of security. There is no doubt that the fear of crime is as worrisome as the crime itself, however, we must as a nation resist the trap of living in fear due to perception rather than appreciating the fact that crime is, at least for the last six months, on the decline.”
He counsels that the figures are the truth, and that “giving in to perception as reality kills our hunger for truth. The truth must be told, and must be told always, whether or not we believe the truth, whether or not the truth is different from the perception. Crime has decreased by 18% since the beginning of the year compared to the same period last year. That is the clear, unadulterated truth. Everything else is just perception. We can all help to change the perception. The truth is in the numbers.”

So what is his perception now, after the events of this week?


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