5,000 guns in lock-up

-UN study raises questions about weapons in police storage since 2003

The research paper, commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), made the disquieting observation about the continued State custody of confiscated guns that should have been destroyed and the country’s commitment to make good on its promise and destroy stockpiled weapons.

“More specifically, illegal firearms which are seized as evidence or otherwise, typically are stored for indefinite periods, and often end up back in the hands of criminals,” according to the March 2011 study, which draws on the findings of the UN Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Develop-ment in Latin America and the Caribbean (UN-LiREC), among other sources.

UN-LiREC officials estimate that internationally, as much as 40 per cent of all weapons in the hands of criminals are sourced from weapons which are legally stockpiled by law enforcement agencies.

There are several cases currently before the local courts involving firearms issued to police officers that were loaned, sold or rented to individuals with criminal records and more reports still of missing guns from police stations store rooms.

In 2009, 38 police officers were transferred out of the St Joseph stationhouse after guns and drugs were discovered hidden in the ceiling of that building.

No arrests were ever made. The research paper noted that: “There was no destruction of surplus, obsolete or confiscated firearms and ammunition” in the twin-island nation since 2003.

More worrying, the UN-LiREC study found that there were also “no destruction protocols or procedures and no written Standard Operating Procedures” for the destruction of weapons seized by local law enforcement officials. The research paper, the first draft of a study on local gangs for a planned UNDP publication entitled “Carib-bean Human Development Report on Citizen Security”, reported that UN-LiREC has made a number of recommendations for the security and destruction of confiscated weapons, including training and legislation.

No data was provided for how many guns are unaccounted for or whether the stockpile includes all of the weapons seized from Yasin Abu Bakr and his band of 1990 attempted coup makers.

Sources with knowledge of the situation told the Sunday Express that the current stockpile of weapons includes the guns surrendered to the military forces on August 1, 1990 after the attempted coup was put down by the armed forces.

The research paper on local gang activity described Caricom’s IMPACS decision to go forward with a Regional Integrated Ballistics Infor-mation Network (RIBIN) as a major crime fighting tool against growing gun violence.

“This system will allow users to identify weapons used in the commission of crimes from ballistics information, and will facilitate tracing the movement of weapons throughout the Caribbean region. This, together with better gun registries, marking of seized firearms, and better detection procedures at ports of entry will contribute to a reduction in the availability of illegal firearms,” said the draft study.

The report noted that the majority of guns are smuggled into the country with illegal drug shipments and come from the United States and South and Central America. It urged law enforcement agencies to search out new and more effective measures in policing the country’s borders, including co-opting citizens who live on the coastlines to report suspicious activity. “While it is important to block the entry of illegal firearms, it is also critical that measures be put in place to stem the supply of such weapons,” said the draft paper, pointing to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime and World Bank report of 2007 which talked about lax regulations and the emergence of so-called straw men who stand in for unknown third parties and buy weapons from gun manufacturers in the US, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

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