Tue | Jun 18, 2019

Taser smugglers bamboozling Customs

Published:Sunday | May 19, 2019 | 12:39 AMCarlene Davis - Gleaner Writer
A photograph of an 18-million-volt taser that is readily available in Jamaica. Tasers are illegal to own without a permit or licence.

Jamaicans are insisting on arming themselves with defensive weapons and are even finding more creative ways to bring them into the country, says the deputy commissioner in charge of border protection at the Jamaica Customs Agency, Alwyn Nicely.

The Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) said that during a 12-month period from 2017-2018, it had seized only 33 tasers, all from businesses.

“A recent detection was of multifunction tasers which also look and operate as a flashlight. It is for this reason we are constantly updating our front-line officers on the various methods of concealment and other related information,” said Nicely.

The Sunday Gleaner had reported on April 28 that despite tasers being banned from general use under the Customs Act and requiring an import licence or permit, a locally based online store was supplying the market with stun weapons and pepper spray, and that the items were available for purchase openly on the streets for as cheap as $3,000.

The operator has since announced stricter restrictions on purchasing items and urged persons to hasten and buy the stock as the items will soon no longer be available for sale. When persons questioned the basis of the impending closure, the operator referred them to The Sunday Gleaner article.

Customs said that all contraband coming into the country was of concern and that its agents had seized an undisclosed amount of pepper spray and mace at border.

“Smuggling methods vary. We have seen people try to send them through the mail, in personal luggage via airlines, shipped in household furniture and game consoles,” Nicely told The Sunday Gleaner.

Security consultant Mark Shields had implored the police and Customs to clamp down on the smuggling of tasers because of the danger if those weapons fell into the hands of criminals.

Customs said that it employs a number of methods to ensure that tasers and non-lethal stun weapons are not brought into the country without proper documentation.

“Firstly, a message of prevention [is transmitted] through continuous consumer education via community engagement, posted signs, notices on our website, newspaper advertisements, news articles, time signals and on our radio feature, ‘Inside Customs’. As it relates to enforcement, our officers are trained to identify and treat with these items if found concealed in passengers’ luggage and/or cargo,” said Nicely .

The deputy commissioner is warning travellers that they will face tough penalties if banned or restricted items are found in their possession at checkpoints.

“Any restricted good arriving without a valid permit is a breach of Section 210 of the Customs Act and incurs a penalty of not less than treble the import duties payable on the goods, nor more than treble the value of the goods; and all goods in respect of which any such offence shall be committed shall be forfeited,” said Nicely.

carlene.davis@gleanerjm.com