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Crime Decreases but Sense of Security Weakens Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 15 April 2010 00:00

On Wednesday, April 14, the Commissioner of Police held his routine straight talk meeting with members of media. This meeting is where he usually presents the most recent crime statistics.  For the past year we have come to expect that the statistics will show that crime has decreased. Many have questioned the statistics- “How could you say that crime has decreased in times like these?” The Commissioner would challenge the media to prove any difference and even on a crime as notable as murder; the media has not been able to prove the statistics wrong. Therefore, we must concede that crime has been decreasing.
 
On Wednesday, the Commissioner again presented statistics that shows a decrease in crime. Compared to January through March 2009, major crimes in that same period of 2010 are down 30.6 %. There were 29 murders during that time in 2009 and 25 in 2010. Furthermore, there were 9 rapes, 159 robberies, 331 burglaries, 371 thefts, and 12 carnal knowledge cases for a total of 911 major crimes in 2009. In 2010 there were 6 rapes, 125 robberies, 226 burglaries, 241 thefts and 9 cases of carnal knowledge for a total of 632 major crimes. The Eastern Division or Belize City is still responsible for the highest number of crimes, which is 42% of overall crimes and 46% of major crimes.

With that being said, the question is again asked: “How could you say that crime has decreased in times like these?” This question might be unfair to the Belize Police Department and the Belize Defense Force whose presence on the street has been instrumental in deterring criminal activities. However, the question is understood because the level of the public’s sense of security is based not on statistics but on personal experiences. Sense of security is something that is extremely difficult to increase but easy to shatter. The sporadic nature of violent crimes in the city makes this sense of security even more fragile because while there may be 12 days without a murder, 3 to 4 may occur over the following weekend. For example, there were 10 murders in January 2009 and only 5 in January 2010. However, there was no increase in the sense of security in that month because our perception is developed based on the most recent traumatic event and the next possible one.

This weak sense of security- this fear has caused us to be on the brink of allowing a few ruthless, misguided individuals to imprison us in our own homes. We now look at everyone and every institution to blame. Many intelligent individuals have even suggested that some level of vigilante justice is needed to get things under control. A vigilante is someone who illegally punishes someone for perceived offenses, or participates in a group which metes out extrajudicial punishment to such a person. Often the victims are criminals in the legal sense; however a vigilante may follow a different definition of criminal than the local law. Is this really what we need? Are we willing to ignore our laws to deal with the lawless?

No vigilante is needed here. All we need is each other. Sunday, April 11, saw a bunch of people on a bus get up and fight off a couple of thugs armed with a handgun and a grenade. They showed the criminals than when the oppressed are fed up they fight back. That bus incident was just a small example of the broader picture. We can fight back as a people. It doesn’t have to be in the literal sense. We can fight back by guaranteeing that our children will be raised right. You can say that your son or your daughter will not be a menace to society. We can fight back by doing the difficult thing and turning our children over to the police when they have committed a crime instead of enjoying the proceeds. We can fight back by testifying in court. These are simple things that we can and accomplish far more than the government or any institution can.

A group of bus passengers overcame their fear and fought off their oppressors. It is time for the entire people of Belize to fight off theirs. A Moorish proverb says, “He who fears something gives it power over him.” It is time to stop the fear of criminals!