Posted: Friday, November 27, 2020. 6:19 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The coming weekend will be critical for the Police Department if it is to fulfill the prediction of the Belize Crime Observatory that the country will finish below 100 murders for the first time in seven years.
Entering November, Belize stood at 82 murders countrywide, 27 fewer than the count of 109 at the same point last year. There was a total of 25 murders recorded in November and December 2019 – 10 in November, 15 in December.
The first murder for the month took place on Election Night, November 11, when 16-year-old Gregory Lewis was found dead on the roadside on the Bullet Tree Road outside San Ignacio Town. That matter is still under investigation.
In the last two weeks, Belize City has seen multiple murders, starting with that of Jareth Tablada, 37, near Holy Emmanuel Street on November 16. He was shot while going to buy Boledo. The same night in Ladyville, 35-year-old Delroy Chaplin was gunned down not far from his home in an isolated area.
Two nights later, Belize City was rocked by the death of 57-year-old Sean Menzies, the popular employee of Bowen and Bowen Limited, known as “Mr. B&B.” The South saw separate killings on the 19th itself – Roger Blanco, a fisherman, in Dangriga; and Eden Mejia, allegedly at the hands of Aduan Usher, in Punta Gorda.
A Belize City man was shot in the head on Giles Street on Monday night, November 23; Devin Amoa died less than a day after burying his sister.
The violence spread north to Corozal on November 24, with the death of Rigoberto Rosado in Corozal Town. But the City would be hit by gun blasts again in the night, first taking the life of Floyd Carter on West Collet Canal; then Dwayne “Dudu” Cherrington in Lake Independence. Finally, “dalla van” driver Lynroy Longsworth was killed on Mahogany Street on Wednesday, November 25.
That’s 11 murders across five districts in just 14 days; six in Belize City, one in Ladyville, one in Corozal, one in San Ignacio, one in Dangriga, and one in Punta Gorda. The current murder count is 93, still significantly down from the 119 recorded at this point last year.
It should be pointed out that suspects have been arrested and charged in a majority of these murders, but can a populace already made jittery by COVID-19 be calmed by the return of the nightly curfew beginning on Saturday, November 28, which runs from 9 p.m. to five a.m.?
On Wednesday, the new Minister of Home Affairs, Kareem Musa, ruled out an imposition of a state of emergency on Southside Belize City or anywhere else: “… it is not something that we will jump at, at the first instance. We certainly are looking at interventions, looking at definitely applying different strategies. The Commissioner of Police is not doing this for the likes you know, he is not doing this for the Facebook likes and the media likes, it’s a very tough job, a lot of people out there don’t like the style and approach of the Belize Police Department, but at the end of the day like you said, it is the toughest job right now and so I don’t in any way envy the commissioner, he is sitting in a very hot seat and likewise myself now inheriting this seat. It’s a hot seat no doubt. It’s a terrible situation and definitely like I said we will be employing strategies, but it’s not our immediate knee-jerk reaction to go to a state of emergency.”
For what it’s worth, official statistics point to fewer murders this year while Belize was under any lockdown or imposed a state of emergency. After 38 murders in the first three months of 2020, the months of April, May, and June, spent mostly under lockdown, saw 13 murders combined; when the lockdown was lifted at the start of July, 14 murders were recorded in that month alone. August, spent under slightly relaxed emergency regulations, and with the threat of COVID spiraling, saw just four murders; September and October where that threat was lifted, saw increases to seven and eight murders respectively.
Whether that proves the criminals need “positive control” to stop the killing is not a question we can answer here. But for there to be a murder-free, never mind COVID-free, holiday season, some kind of grip has to be gotten on the situation – if not for the likes or the figures, then for the cost of human lives.
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