When you consider retiring in Belize, you'll want to know how safe the country is. You may have seen Ross Kemp's TV documentary about Gangs in Belize.
While the documentary revolves mostly around violent activity in Belize City, the country's crime stats as a whole aren't that rosy either.
Belize ties with Colombia with regards to crime rate. The murder rate in Belize is somewhere between 3rd and 6th highest in the world. To put it in perspective, that puts it on a par with Detroit, Chicago and Houston in the USA.
The Belize State Department warns “Gang members and other criminals have historically used high-powered weapons to resolve disputes.”
And the Government of Canada writes: “Criminal activity, including armed robbery, mugging and sexual assault, is a significant problem throughout Belize. Robberies and assaults have been reported in resort areas. There has been a noted increase in violent crime targeting tourists since the end of 2013.”
Don’t be fooled by the fact that this is an English-speaking country. This seems to bring an unwarranted level of security to many people. Generally the degree of crime in a place is a matter of opportunity, education, culture, poverty level and lack of police expertise.
The only one of those five that you can control is opportunity, and we’ll talk more about that shortly.
Belize is, quite often, the country of choice for criminals from the USA and other countries who are fleeing the local justice system. It is also a major port in the transportation of illegal drugs.
And folks, it’s a third world country; when residents are poor they want stuff that we might take for granted. Some resort to stealing to get what they don't have. If you resist they will treat you with violence; there’s no built-in safeguard to prevent that.
One area where the crime rate is higher than usual is the border crossing into Guatemala or Mexico. People have been known to have been assaulted, raped and robbed in these areas. Another high crime location is the south side of Belize City as this is where the gangs hang out.
Finally, violent crime is not the only factor affecting safety. Be aware of hurricane season, of scams and tourist traps, of back roads damaged to effect a hold-up, of mosquitoes infected with Zika virus, of con artists offering unsolicited services and of potential pain or damage from creatures of the sea.
Danger is something that must always be evaluated in your undertaking.
Does this mean that Belize overall is a dangerous country for tourists and expats? No, but it means you should use common sense precautions when traveling and crime-prevention measures when living in Belize.
Many of these tips are pretty universal, and some you’ll recognize from our safety advice for other countries. Hint... they’re all about denying opportunity!
These Belize safety tips are a small sample of the many common sense things you can do to stay safe when retiring in Belize. I could regale you with stories about times when I didn’t do them and what it cost me, so I speak from experience. Fortunately I’m still here to tell you about it!
Next article: Housing and Property in Belize; see you there!