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‘Locking down’ murders

Updated: Jan 8, 2022

Murders are up by approximately eight percent for the first half of 2021 relative to the same period last year, but remains roughly 30 percent lower when compared to 2019’s first two quarters, according to data from the Belize Crime Observatory (BCO).

The BCO’s data informs that there have been 55 murders between January and June this year, a figure that is only four homicides higher relative to this period in 2020. This statistic—if it remains on par with 2020’s results—suggests that Belize, for the second year in a row, could remain below the civil-war benchmark of 30 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, a feat last seen in 2013, when the country’s homicide rate was reported at 28.31 per 100,000.

Nevertheless, it is yet to be seen what the rest of 2021 will yield in terms of this class of crime. While the COVID-19 public health “lockdown” measures remain in effect, readers would recall that last year also saw the use of the government’s emergency powers to help curtail gang activity. On August 5th, 2020, for example, those emergency powers were extended, with the Parliamentary motion having stated:

“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that this Honourable House, being satisfied that a period of public emergency persists in the part of Belize consisting of the part of Belize City, known as the Southside … hereby extends the period of public emergency … for a further period of two months.”

Murders Down Among the Top Six

Like Belize, other countries—whose murder rates per 100,000 persons (“the homicide rate”) similarly give them the unfortunate distinction of ranking on the list of top-six most murderous countries—also witnessed declines in homicides in 2020.

Going in order from first to sixth place according to the homicide rates, we begin with Jamaica. Based on data from the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Caribbean island saw a 1.19 percent decrease in murders last year, falling to 1,323 from 1,339 in 2019. In Venezuela, despite recording over 11,000 homicides (with 4,153 being committed by criminal elements), they too experienced a reduction in the murder levels. “In terms of homicides committed by criminals, the decrease was 37 percent, which shows the reduction of opportunities for violent crime,” stated the Venezuela Violence Observatory.

Honduras’ SEPOL (Spanish acronym for Secretería De Seguridad Policía Nacional) reported a 14.3 percent reduction in homicides, with 2020 and 2019 recording 3,496 and 4082 murders, respectively. Irrespective of the reduction, the Central American country still holds the fourth-place slot.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Police Service (TTPS) reported 393 murders in 2020, down from 2019’s alarming 536. According to TTPS’s data, this represents an almost 27 percent decline. Mexico’s National Citizen Observatory reported 35,531 and 35652 for 2020 and 2019, respectively; thereby, showing a mild 0.34 percent decrease.

Still at sixth place on the list is Belize, which, as reported by the BCO, for the “first time since 2013 … has registered a murder rate below what is deemed to be the civil war levels, at 24.33 per 100,000 inhabitants” as murders decreased by 23.88 percent, the lowest since 2001.

The top-five murder rates for 2020 are 46.5 (Jamaica), 45.6 (Venezuela), 37.6 (Honduras), 28.2 (Trinidad and Tobago), and 27.0 (Mexico).

It is notable that the rate has been trending downward, having falling steadily from 36.61 per 100,000 to 32.80 per 100,000 in 2019.

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