Here we are again as a nation staring into the eye of the tiger of another full blown crisis. This time the abduction and vicious murder of the latest victim 13 year old Jasmine Lowe has triggered a firestorm in this tiny nation. Many are bewildered, confused, and downright disgusted by this latest atrocity. Tune into local TV news, radio or read the local newspapers and you are bound to be petrified by the crime wave spreading over Belize today. Whether it is a brutal shooting or rape or an unsettling spate of drive by or ride by and muggings in a neighborhood near you, violent crime seems to be dominating and sweeping across the nation. Residents are punch drunk by the daily bloodletting. Psychopaths, robbers, murderers, and law breakers in general seemingly have free reign to terrorize the populace. Indeed, it sets off shivers among those worried that the next burglar, rapist or murderer is headed their way. No one is immune, as evidence by this latest victim. The most vulnerable in such situations are always the children. Jasmine Lowe may as well be a metaphor for the unsafe environment many Belizean children are presently living in today. “They will steal anything if it is not nailed down,” exclaimed one resident, as though the certainty of it ought to be apparent to anyone.
As is to be expected the moral outrage expressed by many in the society over Jasmine Lowe’s abduction and murder is understandable. However, much of the ensuing recommendations were knee jerk and reactionary. Numerous pundits, organizations, and media houses are calling for the institution of capital punishment, public floggings, and uncompromising laws against such perpetrators. Formulating and implementing public policy under crisis mode does not make for thoughtful, rational, and viable policy implementation. Thus, our policy planners and makers must strive to formulate policy in non-crisis situations absence the emotions and scathing ricocheting rhetoric of the public. Plus, implementing policy in a calmer environment allows our lawmakers to examine all the important variables and cost benefit analysis that can lead to the relative success of the particular policy. However, at the end of the day, public policy simply boils down to what the government chooses to do or not do.
In addition, there were enough focusing events and indicators prior to this latest atrocity that suggested public safety is seriously compromise in this nation. Daniel Matura Jr., Neisa Pipersburgh, and Saidi Velez come to mind. How many more Jasmin Lowes will it take for the thought to sink in? Do the victims have to be younger and more innocent or the crime more despicable than the last for us to realize that we are in the midst of a full blown public safety crisis in Belize? The crime situation is now a problem not a condition. It can no longer be treated as an anomaly. As a people we can no longer continue to wait for this one to blow over while waiting for the next one to happen. It is now a matter of national security.
For one thing, the very integrity and credibility of this nation is now seriously being called into question. Can the state which has a fiduciary responsibility to the polity protect us? Can we rely on our law enforcement personnel to protect and serve us judiciously? Is the state tethering on fail state status? For another, these are some very vexing questions that must be answered urgently because taking the law into our own hands vigilante style is not the answer. Moreover, we must have the full confidence in the Belize Police Department (BPD) that they can do a reasonable job to provide safety for all citizens. As of now that confidence is badly shaken as many are questioning the BPD’s handling of this case their ineptness is on full display. Chief among the reasons for this no confidence in the BPD are allegations of brutality, false arrest, disappearance of key evidence, routine torture of suspects, mishandling of crime scenes, and general police misconduct and corruption. This certainly has not endeared the BPD to the public. The public look to them for leadership. People rely on law enforcement to make a difference. They are the ones trained in crime fighting techniques.
Yet, we cannot abandon the BPD and leave them to their own devices. They cannot withdraw either because the law must never succumb to the daily carnage or there will be anarchy. We must provide constructive public scrutiny and oversight in the hopes that it will galvanize that organization into providing professional policing that we can all trust and believe in. We must understand that many of the problems that land at their doorsteps represent vast social failures that the police alone will never solve. Many have sought to place the blame for the current crisis squarely on them. The contention that they aid and abet and give tacit approval to lawbreakers is not only wrong but misplace. The BPD is engaged in addressing the worst elements in our society. The least we can do is support and encourage this organization that is so vital to our collective security.
In short, Communities must get involve in organizing and being proactive in public safety. It’s painfully obvious, that relying solely on the state to take action and develop policy is not enough. Communities must play a role in forming partnerships with law enforcement and demand effective and efficient policing. Far from being marginal players Belizeans led by a silent majority’s increasing tolerance to crime, violence, and anti-social behavior has by de-facto allowed their own enslavement to this perfect storm of crime and violence. Also, politicians patrons of these garrison constituencies, it is all about politics for them, they seem oblivious to everything including the crime and violence. They do not seem to understand the moral decay of Belize’s social fabric and have no idea what really happened. As it stands, Belizeans need to do something to develop a new tolerance to crime and violence because essentially the fight against crime is a fight for freedom itself.
- Let victims of crime track case online, says thinktank (guardian.co.uk)
- U.S. donates police vehicles with cameras and crime scene equipment (fiwebelize.com)
- Twin Towns residents say it’s time to take action against crime (fiwebelize.com)
- The Mishandling of Jasmine Lowe’ Investigation Part 2 by: Aria Lightfoot (twocanview.com)
- The Mishandling of Jasmine Lowe’s Investigation by: Aria Lightfoot (twocanview.com)