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B.C. officers commended for saving 'hundreds and hundreds of lives' in Guatemala

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A 12-year-old girl’s brutal shooting death at a high school soccer match is just one of the murder scene's Vancouver Inspector Peter Jarvis investigated while training police in Guatemala, a country torn apart by gang violence.

Jarvis is part of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C., which received an award Thursday from Guatemala’s Attorney General Claudia Paz Y Paz and the Justice Education Society for training Guatemalan justice officials to investigate organized crime.

Intervention from B.C. police organizations in Guatemala began in 2000, and since then conviction rates have risen more than 20 per cent.

But there are still an average of 15 murders per night in Guatemala City, according to statistics from World Bank.

Jarvis said eight to 10 B.C. police officers have gone to Guatemala for weeks at a time to train justice officials in investigations techniques in the past few years.

Police say the gang problem has seriously threatened the country’s survival and crime from there has migrated into the United States and Canada.

“It is very brutal down there. We take our safety for granted up here,” said Jarvis.

“Significant steps are being made to bring those individuals and those groups responsible for most of the violence in Guatemala to justice.”

Rick Craig, executive director of the Justice Education Society of BC, said Guatemala continues to face enormous challenges in confronting the heavily armed and dangerous international crime organizations such as the Zetas, as well as day-to-day extortions, kidnappings and murders of common people.

“The task of the current Attorney General Claudia Paz Y Paz and most attorney generals before her is to rebuild a justice system in Guatemala based on the Rule of Law,” said Craig. “This is a daunting task given the explosive growth of organized crime in the country over these past 13 years.”

Craig said efforts to bring gang members to justice have already resulted in the "savings of hundreds of hundreds of lives."

Paz Y Paz, speaking to reporters in Spanish through a translator, said knowing it is possible to solve cases like that of Allen Stowlinsky – a Guatemalan prosecutor who was beheaded by a gang – last year, gives her hope.

“There have been some seeds planted and we’re gaining results from it,” she said.

“With the help of our increased capacity in forensic video analysis we’ve been able to solve such as incredible cases such as that of Allan Stowlinsky.”

Stowlinsky’s case is profiled in a recent documentary, “The Most Violent Place on Earth.”

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