The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) works to keep Americans safe at home by countering international crime, illegal drugs, and instability abroad. INL helps countries deliver justice and fairness by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. These efforts reduce the amount of crime and illegal drugs reaching U.S. shores.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime consistently ranks Belize among the top 10 countries in the world for homicides due to its small population and murder rate per capita, which averages just under 40 per 100,000 residents. While the majority of murders and gang-related violence occur in the south side of Belize City, the rest of the country has also experienced increases in levels of violent crime over the last several years. Belize suffers from ineffective law enforcement and judicial institutions. Conviction rates are low, and the government is unable to dedicate sufficient prevention resources to sustainably reduce rates of crime and violence.
Belize’s porous and sparsely-populated borders and coastline make the country a major transit zone for narcotics and other contraband. Despite enhanced efforts to secure its territory, Belize’s Coast Guard, Defense Force, and police are hampered by limited funds, poor training and equipment, and lack of personnel. Belize’s judiciary is hindered by an inefficient court system, poor case management, insufficient numbers of trained prosecutors and judges, and a limited budget.
To prevent Belize from becoming a safe haven for transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), INL, through the U.S. Strategy for Central America and the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), provides assistance to Belize to enhance its ability to disrupt and deter trafficking, and use intelligence-driven operations to target, investigate, and prosecute organized crime. INL programming provides Belize technical assistance to improve its capacity to secure its borders, investigate and prosecute money laundering and other financial crimes, and implement reforms to improve the efficiency of its courts.
Counternarcotics – INL works with U.S. interagency partners to provide training, equipment, and expertise to the Belize Police Department (BPD) to detect and disrupt narcotics trafficking by TCOs and local gangs. INL provides technical training and equipment to improve the capacity of a DEA-vetted Anti-Narcotics Unit (ANU) to conduct complex trafficking investigations and build cases for prosecution. INL-funded boat equipment enables ANU to extend its reach and interdict and investigate narcotics trafficking through Belizean waters. INL provides technical assistance to Belize’s Joint Intelligence Operations Center, a command hub to target and investigate TCOs and facilitate intelligence sharing with local law enforcement and regional partners.
Border Security – INL provides training, equipment, and technical assistance to assist Belize to enhance its capacity to monitor human and cargo traffic passing through its official ports of entry, and defend its remote borders in between its ports of entry. INL funds a resident U.S. Customs and Border Protection Advisor, who assists Belize in developing and implementing a National Border Security Strategy, and advises Belize as it prepares to stand up an interagency border force that will improve its ability to respond to incursions into Belizean territory by TCOs. INL provided inspection equipment for border police, immigration officials, and customs officials, and trained immigration officials at Philip Goldson International Airport on cargo inspection, interview techniques, and detection of fraudulent documents.
Citizen Security – INL funds two law enforcement advisors, who assist Belize in its efforts to professionalize the BPD through strategic planning and in-service training, including for Field Training Officers, first responders, and crime scene management. INL helped Belize to reform its Police Training Academy through improved police recruit selection, instructor selection, and curriculum development. INL supports the establishment of a Comparative Statistics (COMPSTAT) office to enable data-driven decisions about resource management. INL also supports the upgrade of the BPD Crime Information Management System, which will allow detailed crime mapping of all criminal offenses.
Rule of Law – INL funds training and advisors to assist Belize to increase the efficiency and transparency of its criminal justice system. INL funds an advisor to build the capacity of Belizean prosecutors to manage, investigate, and effectively prosecute cases. INL funds a forensics advisor to train the Scenes of Crime Unit to collect forensic evidence for use in trials, and to assist Belize’s forensics lab to work toward accreditation. INL funded U.S. Department of Treasury advisors to provide technical training to Belize’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). INL also supported the installation of a prison-to-court video conferencing system, to expedite hearings and reduce the length of time inmates are held in pretrial detention.