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Home Affairs Minister outlines crime plan: more cameras, more force and more rehabilitation

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Posted: Wednesday, October 27, 2021. 5:45 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries, Kareem Musa, on Tuesday addressed the House of Representatives updating efforts by Government to arrest violent crime and murder.

Musa, responding to a formal question from Mesopotamia area representative Moses “Shyne” Barrow, first acknowledged the efforts of various stakeholders in providing inspiration and ideas to formulating the strategy, a task he admitted “was for giants.”

The first plank is to “turn up the heat on gang members” with the support of the Police at the Prosecution Branch. A new program targets them specifically with commitment warrants to, as Musa said, “[get] them off the streets … now,” and recruiting senior investigators to follow up cases involving these individuals.

Musa said the aim was to make a life of crime “less attractive,” and increase the efforts by gang members to leave the life and turn their lives around in social and rehabilitative programs. “We have every intention of working with those who want to turn their lives around, but we also have every intention of targeting, disabling, and removing those who wish to terrorize and kill. We realize that it will be a bumpy process but enough is enough.”

Commenting that 26 Belizean lives to date have been saved with that many fewer murders to date in the year compared to last year, Musa turned to the activation of a loan facility with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) that, for whatever reason, the previous administration was unable to unlock. It will now fund one hundred more CCTV cameras and six more mobile units to increase the eyes and reach of Belizean law enforcement, to be delivered early in 2022.

As far back as 2010, there have been installations of cameras across Southside Belize City and it is rare these days to find shops that do not have surveillance cameras, prompting some would-be thieves to remove these in order to cover their tracks. There continue to be questions as to what these cameras will do to stop violent crime and murder especially, but Musa credits those already installed for solving “two out of the last five murders.”

Musa noted that there remains a process by which crimes are solved and justice is obtained – something he tries to emphasize when he meets with grieving mothers and family as he often does. But there is a turnaround to report in terms of reports of crime, which in the case of Crimestoppers Belize has resulted in 300 percent more tips to their hotline between January and September this year. “This motivates us: Belizeans are speaking up; they are refusing to keep quiet; they want it to end,” Musa said.

And a potential gamechanger is the introduction of DNA technology to the National Forensic Science Service (NFSS) amid a wider expansion of that office, and a ballistics library to track guns used in crimes.

There are also more boots on the ground – 225, to be exact, the number of recruits graduated in Squad 95, who are better trained, reaching out to community leaders and the spear point of the revived Police Department.

There is also a collaboration with other Ministries: a Family Needs Assessment by the Ministry of Human Development; the rollout of free education by pilot on Southside Belize City; a ‘Heal Up Belize’ program to train key stakeholders in the community to interrupt violence and provide counseling and mentoring; 300 at-risk youth to enter programs in skills training and clean-up and beautification and expanding the LOVE Foundation/Kolbe Foundation/U.S. Embassy community hub initiative with 12 new such hubs (the sixth iteration of the LOVE/Kolbe/U.S. initiative will be opened in the Wagner’s Lane/Albert Street/Rocky Road area next week), all under the wider umbrella of plans to make the Southside a Special Development Area.

Musa concluded, “I believe Belizeans are strong enough, blessed enough, and good enough to put the brakes on crime. No, it will not happen overnight; but the intolerance to crime, shock, death, and pain must be immediate. Our actions as a result of that intolerance must be collective, swift, concentrated, patient, and deep-rooted. We are in the execution stage, Madam Speaker; but we are humble enough to sound the call that we need each and every right-minded Belizean to stand up with us. We simply cannot do it without you.”

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