Wed | Mar 21, 2018

Bullets bonanza - Police on the hunt as criminals continue to get easy access to 9mm rounds

Published:Sunday | March 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMArthur Hall
National Security Minister Robert Montague (right) in talks with Acting Police Commissioner Novelette Grant (centre), who is now leading the Get the Guns Campaign, and Dr Karl Williams, who started the campaign during his time as police commissioner.

Illegal gun and ammunition dealers have reportedly flooded the island with nine millimetre (9mm) bullets, with criminals having a field day.

Sunday Gleaner sources have pointed to several communities in the Corporate Area, Clarendon and St James, where the bullets are being sold for between $6,000 and $15,000 for a box of 50.

"Usually is $15,000 that a man demand for a box of 9mm, but since it so available you will get a man who will take $6,000 or $7,000 for it," said a source with ties to the criminal underworld.

"If you have a licence you can get a box from the official dealers for $5,000 and $6,000, depending on the grade, but if you want the hollow-point bullets, that is $400 and $500 for one. That means a box of 50 hollow points will cost you up to $20,000," added the source.

The police have confirmed that the guns which discharge the 9mm bullets seem to be the weapon of choice for the criminals, with spent shells of that calibre found on several crime scenes across the nation.

Late last week, law-enforcement officials accepted that there could be some leakage of ammunition from registered shooting ranges and licensed firearm holders, but said this pales in comparison to what comes in through the 145 illegal ports known to them.

"There is approximately 497 miles of coastline where we had no marine presence for a year until last week when the two JDF (Jamaica Defence Force) ships were commissioned into service," one senior law- enforcement official told The Sunday Gleaner. He said there were not many crime scenes in western Jamaica last year where detectives did not recover "between 40 and 50 spent shells".

"It means those guys don't have to be wondering where their ammunition come from. We believe the bulk of those bullets come in through these illegal ports," said the official.

In the meantime, Minister of National Security Robert Montague, who is on a drive to tighten the regulations governing the alleged bullet-leaking shooting ranges across the island, told our news team that securing the nation's borders will be critical to stemming the inflow of illegal guns and bullets.


Cut off supply


According to Montague, the acquisition of the two ships for the JDF and the purchase of a surveillance aircraft will help to prevent guns and ammunition from entering the country.

"We need to go for the root causes because the gun is present at 81 per cent of all crime scenes, and we don't make any here. So we must choke off the supply," said Montague.

Latest official data seen by The Sunday Gleaner show 191 murders between January 1 and February 25. This was 22 per cent more than 156 murders reported over the corresponding period last year.

At a rate of almost four murders each day, the nation is believed to have recorded well over the 200 mark when the official numbers are released this week.

Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, head of the police force's Corporate Communications Unit, told our news team that in spite of successes in ridding the streets of illegal guns and ammunition since the start of the year, the cops will step up their attempts to find the suppliers and distributors of the bullets.

"Under the Get the Guns Campaign, we are getting some of the ammunition but we will be promoting that even more this year," she said. "We know that the guns are not effective without the rounds and C-TOC (Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch) will be looking at how it can improve its intelligence-gathering to get to the ammunition."

Lindsay noted that since the start of this year, the police have seized 150 illegal guns, up from the 105 seized in the corresponding period last year. Just over 1,600 rounds of ammunition have been taken from the hands of criminals so far this year, up from 1,515 seized by the end of the first week of March last year.

"We continue to increase our gun finds, and we know they are coming in mainly from North and South America through the several unofficial ports across the island which are used by our fisherfolk," said Lindsay. "We are paying serious attention to this and we are working with our partners in several countries in an effort to stop the flow of ammunition and guns into the island."