Sun | May 31, 2020

It’s complicated - Westmoreland cops highlight challenges in policing nation’s porous coastline

Published:Wednesday | December 4, 2019 | 12:00 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor

Western Bureau:

While admitting that the police could do well with more resources to create an adequate buffer to keep out foreign nationals from coming into the island by sea for nefarious activities, Superintendent Robert Gordon, the commander for the Westmoreland Police Division, says that in that parish, the best use is being made of the resources at their disposal.

Gordon was speaking against the background of Tuesday’s arrest of three Honduran nationals and the seizure of approximately 656 pounds of ganja, valued at $2.6 million, on a vessel off the coast of Negril.

While not having the requisite statistics at hand, Gordon noted that a fair number of foreign nationals, especially from South America, have been entering the island on illegal missions, which have resulted in some of them been arrested and charged for drugs and gun-related crimes.

“Over time, we have seen that a number of foreign nationals, especially from South America, have entered our space without proper documentation. Some of them have been caught with contraband, to include firearms or drugs,” Gordon told The Gleaner yesterday.

When asked if the police in Westmoreland were sufficiently equipped to handle the invaders who breach the nation’s coastline from the seas, Gordon noted that like in all other areas of national life, the supply is usually not there to meet the demand.

“There is never enough resources, whether in economics or otherwise. The demand always outstrips supplies, so for us the situation is the same,” said Gordon. “We could do with more resources, but with what we have, we make the best use of it. We make strategic deployments dependent sometimes on our intelligence feed. We make these deployments to arrest the situation as best we can.”

Challenge of nation’s coastline

Gordon also spoke to the challenge posed by the porous nature of the nation’s coastline, which Winsome Packer, coordinator for counterterrorism and non-proliferation studies at Caribbean Maritime University, listed earlier this year as an area that requires significant attention.

“You know our borders are so porous and that in itself creates an additional challenge,” said Gordon, who nonetheless made it clear that the police will be relentless in going after intruding criminals.

In a Gleaner story in June, Packer noted that Jamaica had numerous unmanned entry points and stated that unless ways were found to address the situation, the problem with gun and drug runners would continue.

“As I understand it, Jamaica has [more than a] hundred little points of entry to the island where a little canoe or boat can pull up. They are not guarded, they exist, and the traffickers know of them,” Packer said. “If we are serious about countering this problem, we have to make it a priority to invest in infrastructure that includes one or two guards, or technology to monitor, electronically, arrivals, departures, and other activities at these ports remotely.”

In the incident off the Negril coastline, the Hondurans were intercepted by members of the Jamaica Defence Force Coast Guard and turned over to the police.