63 firearms seized at ports since January
As many as 63 firearms and over 8,000 rounds of ammunition have been intercepted at local ports since the start of the year, but national security officials admitted on Wednesday that corruption and other illicit activities are seriously hampering Jamaica’s efforts to fight transnational crime.
Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency Executive Director Col Desmond Edwards said that more than 95,000 pounds of marijuana was shipped from Jamaica and more than 130kg of cocaine was also trafficked into the country over the same period.
“Jamaica remains the largest source of ganja in the Caribbean and is a prominent trans-shipment point for cocaine,” Edwards said at Wednesday’s Border Security Conference at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in St Andrew.
There are 14 legitimate ports in the country, but security intelligence has indicated that 33 of the 63 weapons and more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition seized this year were intercepted at unmanned ports.
“Firearms continue, as you all know, to be the main means or tool in the effecting of our high rates of violence and contribute to certainly close to 80 per cent of our homicides,” he said.
Although the Haiti guns-for-drugs trade still exists, the majority of weapons shipped to Jamaica have come from the US. Marijuana, on the other hand, is being shipped from Jamaica primarily to the US via The Bahamas.
Edwards said that despite the best efforts of border patrol officials, transnational crime, which involves trafficking in drugs, firearms, human trafficking, and the laundering of illicit proceeds, continues to thrive.
“One of the problems we also face is our lengthy litigation periods. We have cases going through our courts that take six, seven years between first arrests and the individual being taken to court for outcome by way of a trial, and this, of course, creates a bit of a problem,” he said.
Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang sought to assure the audience that the Government was making huge investments in border security amid concerns that the funds gained from the narcotic trade are being used to finance illegal activities in the country.
“When placed into this context, proper monitoring, multimodal surveillance, and increased border security become fundamental issues that must be addressed in our overall crime-fighting architecture,” he said during his address.
Rana Saoud, acting deputy special agent in charge of Division I at the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Miami, revealed in a Gleaner interview two months ago that despite efforts to stem the flow of illegal firearms to Jamaica, they would not be able to fully eradicate this issue as detecting every gun tucked away in the thousands of containers that leave that shoreline each year is impractical.
“A lot of shipments go in and out of the United States on a daily basis. We cannot search every single package that leaves the United States,” she said.