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 averaging just under 40 per 100,000 residents. The murder rate in 2016 rose to 138 homicides, the second highest ever recorded. While the majority of murders and gang-related violence occur in the south side of Belize City, the rest of the country also experienced violent crime increases in the last several years. Belize suffers from ineffective law enforcement and judicial institutions, and the government is unable to dedicate sufficient prevention resources to sustainably reduce the rates of crime and violence. Belize’s porous and sparsely-populated border and coastline make the country a transit point for narcotics and other illicit activities. 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.
INL’s programming builds Belizean capacity to reduce crime in Belize and prevent and deter transnational crime, including narcotics trafficking, human trafficking and smuggling, illicit finance, and transnational gang activity. These programs are consistent with security and governance priorities of the U.S. Strategy for Central America and the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI).
Counternarcotics – INL works with U.S. interagency partners to provide training, equipment, and expertise to the Belize Police Department (BPD) to improve citizen security and reduce the influence of criminal organizations. INL supports a DEA-vetted Anti-Narcotics Unit to investigate and arrest drug traffickers. INL implements the Comparative Statistics (COMPSTAT) police management model and in 2018 expanded the model nationwide. INL supports the upgrade of the BPD Crime Information Management System that will allow detailed crime mapping of all offenses. INL helped Belize to reform the Police Training Academy through improved police recruit selection, instructor qualifications and selection, and continuing education for all police officers. INL continues to assist the BPD to enhance the Field Training Officers program for recruits nationwide and advises on the development of a 10-year Strategic Plan.
Improved Borders – INL provides targeted border security training, equipment, and technical assistance to Belize. In 2018, the United States supported the establishment of a Belize Border Security Work Group, which is developing a border security framework among the three main border enforcement agencies: the BPD; the Department of Immigration and Nationality Services; and the Customs and Excise Department. Under the leadership of the Customs and Excise Department, this multi-agency unit will maintain a stronger presence along borders, augmenting existing border security. INL support includes inspection equipment for border police, immigration officials, and customs officials. In 2018, with INL assistance and training, the border police conducted checkpoint operations along the highways and apprehended 86 individuals for illegal entry. INL provides training on fraudulent documents and interview techniques for immigration officials at the Philip Goldson International Airport.
Criminal Justice System – INL supports programs to educate and inform the public of the justice system, and to build Belizean public confidence in a fair, efficient, and transparent system. INL provides advisory services, equipment, and training to the Belizean justice system. INL supports the U.S. Department of Treasury’s advisory assistance for the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to build capacity to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. INL funds advisors to improve justice sector capacity in criminal procedure reform, case file management, sentencing guidelines, public prosecution protocols, and use of physical evidence. INL support enabled video conferencing during proceedings between the courts and the Belize Central Prison, to ensure more secure, effective, and expedient processing and resolution of criminal matters.