Keeping Our Citizens Safe and Our Borders Secure
The Horizon 2030 Vision: Belize is a country of peace and tranquility, where citizens live in harmony with the natural environment and enjoy a high quality of life. Belizeans are an energetic, resourceful and independent people looking after their own development inasustainableway.
The Horizon 2030 Vision expresses Belizeans' aspiration to a high quality of life, characterized by peace and prosperity. Belizeans cherish our independence and we deserve to enjoy our sovereignty without threats from outside. Yet, Belize's security has been severely challenged by the growth of urban violence over the past 3 decades and by the ongoing transboundary threats fromneighboring countries -- the transnational drug trade, border encroachments, and the long-standing Guatemalan territorial claim. In the face of these formidable security challenges, the UDP Government has made significant gains in resolving these threats to our peace and sovereignty. To address the scourge of crime and violence, which is most visibly manifested in gang violence, the UDP embarked on a new approach to citizen security – a comprehensive and collaborative approach which focuses on the many social and economic factors that lie at the root of crime and violence. Since 2008, the UDP government made unprecedented investments in supporting families, keeping children in school, peace building, and improving livelihoods, all tailored to the particular needs of disadvantaged populations. The UDP government achieved many gains in streamlining the criminal justice system. The National Forensic Science Service (NFSS) was made an independent department in 2014 and bolstered with qualified staff, specialized training, and equipment. Major strides were also made in electronic informationmanagement to support intelligence-driven law enforcement.
To maintain law and order and protect our borders, the UDP government increased the Belize Police Department to over 2300 officers - a more than 100% increase from 2008, the BDF to 2200 active duty personnel - a 38% increase, and the Belize Coast Guard to over 500 active duty personnel - a 694% increase. The UDP government established 5 Forward Operating Bases at cayes from north to south and, in collaboration with Friends for Conservation Development, established several Conservation Posts at “hotspots” along the border that serve as operating bases for joint patrols. A flagship achievement of the UDP Government was to hold a successful referendum in May 2019, in which the Belizean people decided conclusively to submit the unfounded Guatemalan claim on Belize to the International Court of Justice to end this territorial dispute, once and for all. In the next 5 years, the new UDP government will bring Belize even closer to our national vision of “a country of peace and tranquility”, focusing on three strategic lines of action. The UDP's first focal area will be to strengthen the criminal justice system. The UDP government will increase the professionalism and effectiveness of the Police Department by instituting improved standards of conduct, greater accountability, and stricter recruitment and promotion standards. Additionally, the next UDP Government will improve access to justice by increasing the number of judges and magistrates, and reduce caseloads through court-connected mediation and diversion programs for first time youth offenders.
Our second strategic line of action will be to reduce crime and violence by addressing their social and economic root causes. To accomplish this, the UDP government will implement the recently drafted, long- term , which Citizen Security Policy and Plan (2020 – 2025) focuses on building stronger families, keeping children in school, and improving livelihoods for the youthmost affected by violent crime. The next UDP government's third strategic line of action will be to protect Belize's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Of paramount importance will be to successfully prepare and present Belize's case to the ICJ to secure a final settlement to Guatemala's unfounded claimon Belize. The new UDP Government will further secure our borders by establishing a Third Infantry Battalion within the BDF, with a primary focus on interrupting the transnational drug trade and other illegal cross-border activities. To complement the increase in troops, the new UDP Government will expand the operational infrastructure countrywide. The next UDP Government will work hand-in-hand with citizens and international partners to make Belize a safe, peaceful and prosperous home for all.
The UDP's Accomplishments in Keeping Our Citizens Safe and Our Borders Secure In the face of multiple challenges, the UDP Government has brought Belize nearer to its cherished 30-year vision for “a country of peace and tranquility,” with significant accomplishments in citizen security, border security, and safeguarding our sovereignty. Through determination and innovation, the UDP has achieved the following:s tomake Belize a safe, peaceful and prosperous home for all. 1. Strengthened the policy and legislative framework for crime prevention with the following laws and national plans: Ø The first-of-its-kind Cybercrime Bill 2020, which provides for penalties, investigation, and prosecution of cybercrime offenses including identity theft, electronic forgery, cyberbullying, child luring, computer hacking, and copyright infringement, among others. Ø The Crime Control and Criminal Justice Amendment 2018, which strengthens anti-gang provisions. Ø The Firearms Amendment Act 143 2018, which provides for new and updated fines and fees to deter the use of illegal guns. Ø the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Act 2016 which streamlines the processing of charges for possession of small quantities of marijuana. Ø The Citizen Security Policy and Plan (2020 – 2025) which presents a comprehensive framework for the national response to crime and violence and charts a way forward for a more peaceful Belize. Ø The Growth and Sustainable Development Strategy (2017 – 2020) which includes Citizen Security as one of five key pillars of national development.
2. Instituted a multi-sectoral, multi-dimensional, and collaborative approach to citizen security, which includes the following landmark accomplishments: Ø Introduction of targeted and innovative programs to support families most affected by gang violence. These included poverty reduction, community rehabilitation, violence reduction, trauma-informed care for affected children, conflict mediation, literacy promotion, and job training tailored to the particular needs of disadvantaged populations. Ø Hosting of a National Citizen Security Summit in July 2018 to gather inputs from government partners, civil society, and the private sector on the best approaches to improving citizen security. This resulted in the formulation of the Citizen Security Work Action Plan (2018-2020), which is currently being executed. 3. Increased the professionalism and effectiveness of the police force through the following key actions: Ø Expansion of the force to over 2300 officers. Ø Development of the Belize Police Department Policies and Procedures Manual to institute improved standards of conduct, greater accountability, formal job descriptions for all ranks, stricter recruitment processes, stricter guidelines and penalties for unjustified use of force, and improved training programs, among others. Ø Development of credible, merit-based recruitment and promotional processes that ensure the selection of the most qualified candidates.
4. Increased the use of technology to modernize investigations and information management with the following investments: Ø Establishment of the National Forensic Science Service (NFSS) as a stand-alone department in 2014 with a qualified Executive Director and the provision of specialized training for personnel to aid in the successful prosecution of cases. Ø Acquisition of a state-of-the-art Integrated Ballistics Information System (IBIS) in 2014 for the National Forensic Science Services. Ø Implementation of trial by video link, in conjunction with the Judiciary, so that witnesses do not have to appear in court in special circumstances where court presence is infeasible or presents a significant risk. Ø Capacity building in the use of GPS, GIS, data analysis, and data visualization which entailed specialized training, equipment purchase, and software acquisition. 5. Protected our national borders from threats of transnational crimes and illegal border encroachments through the following strategic actions: Ø Expanded the Belize Defence Force (BDF) incrementally since 2008 to build the current force comprising 2200 active duty personnel -- an increase of approximately 600 soldiers. Ø Establishment of the Belize Crime Observatory -- an information service to support evidence-based decision making for crime and violence reduction. Ø Establishment of the Sex Offenders Registry and sensitization of stakeholders. Ø Provision of up-to-date crime and violence information to the public in visually attractive and easy-to-understand reports, maps, and infographics through the Belize Crime Observatory. Ø Strengthened the BDF's counter-narcotics capabilities to stop transnational crime on land and sea. This included the acquisition of 6 Jeeps, 13 Hino Troop Carriers, 2 ambulances, 8 F150 trucks, 15Mazda pickup trucks, 2 vans, and 3 Land Cruisers. Ø Increased the BDF's aviation capacity by acquiring two UH-1H helicopters and obtaining training in helicopter maintenance, helicopter operations, aircrew flight equipment, emergency management, and operational safety.
6. Defended our sovereignty against the centuries-old, unfounded Guatemalan territorial claim by submitting our case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This entailed: Ø A comprehensive national education campaign on the history of the claim, the merit of Belize's case, and the function of the ICJ, so that all voters could be fully informed before casting their ballots in this essential and long-awaited referendum. Ø Established several Conservation Posts strategically located at “hotspots” along the border to curb the encroachments of Guatemalans into Belize. These posts serve as the operating bases for joint patrols comprising Friends for Conservation Development, the Belize Defence Force, and the Belize Police Department personnel. Ø Increased salaries for the BDF to provide fair compensation to our dedicated servicemen, commensurate with their years of service. Ø Expanded the Belize Coast Guard to over 500 active duty personnel, an increase from 63 persons when UDP first took office in 2008, thereby enhancing Belize's capacity to protect Belize's maritime spaces, industries, natural resources, and commerce fromboth foreign and domestic threats. Ø Established Forward Operating Bases at Calabash Caye, Ambergris Caye, Glovers Reef, South Water Caye, and Hunting Caye for the protection of our maritime borders and interception of transnational drug trafficking. Ø Signed into effect the Corona Reef Statutory Instrument in July 2020 to increase the size of the Sapodilla Cayes Marine Reserve by approximately 7 times its existing size. This allows for more effective law enforcement by the Belize Coast Guard and the Fisheries Department to protect our marine habitats in the southern areas adjacent to Honduras and Guatemala. Ø Constructed a multi-purpose building and maintenance workshop at the Coast Guard Headquarters in April 2016, which provides essential space for accommodations, offices, stores, and boat maintenance. Ø Carrying out a successful referendum on May 8, 2019 with 65% voter turnout, in which the Belizean electorate chose to submit the territorial dispute with Guatemala to the ICJ.
A Safe Future for All The next UDP Government will build on its successes in improving citizen security, strengthening the criminal justice system, protecting our national borders, and safeguarding our sovereignty by investing in the following strategic actions: 1. Increase the professionalism and effectiveness of the Belize Police Force. The UDPwill: Ø Increase the rate of successful prosecutions by improving the quality of investigations. Ø Improve the capacity of the Crimes Investigation Branch through a strict recruitment process and specialized training, with a particular focus on homicide and gender-based violence investigations. Ø Maintain public confidence in the department's ability to provide fair and human service by adhering to the rule of law and due process and avoiding excessive use of force and eliminating systemic corruption by strengthening corruption investigations. Ø Improve the welfare of police officers by providing better compensation and benefits, psychosocial support for police officers, and continuous training to foster merit-based career advancement. Ø Strengthen community policing practice in everyday operations for all precincts to build trust with communities, especially communities impacted by high levels of crime.
2. Reduce crime and violence by addressing the root social and economic causes. The UDPwill: Ø Implement the recently drafted Citizen Security Policy and Plan (2020 – 2025) that focuses heavily on people-centered prevention. Ø Give vulnerable children a head start in life with first-rate maternal care, early childhood nutritional support, parental education, and support for increased school attendance from pre-school to high-school. Ø Increase the mandatory school age to 16 to keep vulnerable children in school for longer. Ø Increase education subsidies and scholarship programs for families most at-risk. Ø Expand opportunities for alternative education and skills training programs targeting out-of-school youth. Ø Provide wrap-around social support services to vulnerable families through the BOOST, Food, Pantry, Education Assistance, and housing programs. Ø Establish drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs for youth and adults. Ø Increase employment, start-up financing, and business support for low-skilled populations in high crime areas through specialized, market-driven job skills training, and targeted small business loans.
Ø Implement innovative and targeted gang interventions to reduce gang recruitment and participation. Key actions would be: Ü Implementation of Cure Violence – a violence interruption program that has proven successful in the region in reducing gang violence. Ü Collaboration with the Financial Intelligence Unit to develop criminal cases against gangs and their allies and to seize the assets of identified gangmembers. Ü An increase in the use of community mediation to address gang and other community conflicts. Ø Strengthen mechanisms for government-wide, multi-sectoral collaboration on addressing the multiple dimensions of youth- involved urban violence. Ø Increase the engagement of civil society, the private sector, and individual citizens to ensure a “whole of society” approach to citizen security. Ø Develop re-entry/re-integration programs for incarcerated populations and returnees/deportees. 3. Improve timely and equitable access to justice. The UDP will: Ø Increase the number of magistrates and judges to better manage the caseload. Ø Improve the conviction rate by building the capacity of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and improving its relationship with the Police Department. Ø Expand that use of diversion programs for children and first-time youth offenders to minimize the incarceration of children and reduce the caseload of the Courts, with a focus on rehabilitation. Ø Expand the use of court-connected and community mediation by the passage of a Mediation Bill and investment in establishing community mediation centers.
4. Use the power of technology in the fight against crime. The UDPwill: Ø Establish an effective electronic case management system for criminal cases, using information technology to create a seamless process across the various agencies responsible for handling criminal cases and convicted persons. Ø Facilitate intelligence-driven policing by upgrading the Crime Information Management System and strengthening the capacity of the Belize Crime Observatory. Ø Streamline information management and sharing across the criminal justice system to realize considerable gains in cost and time efficiencies. 5. Protect Belize's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The UDPwill: Ø Present Belize's case to the ICJ to secure a final settlement to Guatemala's unfounded claim on Belizean territory, armed with the highest quality legal representation. Ø Secure academic training opportunities for Belizeans in forensic science through beneficial partnerships with national and international universities. Ø Increase the geographic coverage of the camera surveillance network to comprehensively cover all high crime areas. Ø Establish and equip a Third Infantry Battalion within the BDF to bolster its ranks with a primary focus on interdiction of the ongoing transnational drug trade, the contraband trade, and other illegal cross-border activities. Ø Incentivize our armed forces by issuing land to members of the BDF who are first-time landowners. Ø Expand the Belize Coast Guard's operational infrastructure with the construction of new sector headquarters at Big Creek and additional bases at Northern Ambergris Caye, Punta Gorda, and Consejo. Ø Construct a marina at the Coast Guard Headquarters for the safe berthing, launching, and recovery of small boats as well as berthing for one of the Sea Axe offshore patrol boats.Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7
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