Crime continues to plague Belize despite government’s efforts to tackle it. Strategies put in place have been considerably effective however the problem has not been completely solved. But while Belize’s authorities continue to fight crime at all levels, there is a bigger picture within Latin America.
To start with, the United Nations has qualified crime and violence as an “epidemic” and considers the region to be the most insecure in the world. In 2012, reports showed that one in three inhabitants in the region was a victim of a crime, mainly theft. To get a better picture of the current situation in the entire region, the World Bank Citizen Security Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Rodrigo Serrano-Berthet, gives an overview of the situation of crime in an interview published in the international press.
According to Serrano-Berthet, while countries in Latin America have been able to address and improve in areas such as as inflation, poverty and unemployment, they have not managed to reduce the high rates of crime and violence which affect the region. By contrast, the incidence of crime and violence has not changed in recent decades, and remains at very high levels, much higher than in other regions. The Latin American and Caribbean region is home to nearly 9% of the global population but accounts for over 30% of the world’s homicides.
Seven of the 10 countries with the world’s highest homicide rates are in the region, and of the 50 cities with the highest rates in the world, 42 are in Latin America, including the top 16. On the homicide map, the countries with the highest rates by sub-region are Mexico; Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala in Central America; Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil in South America; and Belize and Jamaica in the Caribbean. But if we look at total victimization rates (for any type of violent crime), we get a different picture, where countries such as Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay and Argentina lead the ranking.
In other words, says Serrano-Berthet, crime and violence affect every single country in the region, in one way or another. That is why this problem is Latin Americans’ prime concern.
While there are many countries and cities that have managed to dramatically reduce the incidence of violence, there is more that can be done although this differs in context for each country. Serrano-Berthet suggests that firstly, countries must recognize that there is no magic wand to resolve the problem.
There is a need to invest in a portfolio of comprehensive interventions with a proven impact on risk factors for violence. Secondly, there should be a focus on the geographical areas and population groups at greatest risk, particularly young people. Lastly, countries must strengthen the capabilities of municipal governments which are most affected by violence to generate local partnerships to enable implementation of the first two recommendations.
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