Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
A senior policeman attached to Jamaica's Organised Crime Investigation Division (OCID) has charged that ignorance on the part of customs officers is hurting the country's fight against crime.
During an interview at OCID's headquarters in Kingston, Detective Inspector Warren Williams, head of the Communications, Forensics and Cybercrimes Unit at OCID, disclosed that certain pieces of equipment used by criminals to commit white-collar and cybercrimes get into the country because customs officers who man the ports of entry do not always know what they are to look out for.
Responding to questions about the equipment used by unlicensed carriers in Jamaica to disguise overseas calls as local calls on the networks of legitimate operators, the detective inspector said those pieces of equipment could be classified as "uncustomed goods".
"There are a lot of things that come through Customs and they don't understand and know what it is for. They can bring in this piece of gadget and say it is for 'X' when it is not for that, so this is part of the problem also. Like many other goods which would have been brought in, the customs (officers) are not knowledgeable of what it is for. Once it gets in, it is used for that kind of illegal operation," Williams explained.
"It is a problem because, had they known what it is, then they would have stopped it there and then. They need to be educated," he added.
The detective inspector believes this lack of knowledge being displayed by customs officers is a significant problem.
"If customs (officers) are not knowledgeable of what to look for, then it is easy that these things will just come in, then once it gets into the Jamaican society it creates a problem for the police because it is not a legal thing," said Williams.
The OCID sleuth said efforts are being made to resolve this weakness in the crime fight as Customs works closely with the police.
However, when contacted, the Jamaica Customs Agency repudiated the claim made by the OCID detective inspector.
"The Customs agency categorically disagrees with the assessment reportedly stated by Detective Inspector Warren Williams of OCID. This assessment of 'lack of knowledge' being displayed by customs officers is erroneous. The Customs Agency continuously invests in the awareness and training of officers as ongoing line officers training, units' in-house training, technical assistance from international partners such as World Customs Organization, and monthly sensitisation bulletins," read a statement issued by Jamaica Customs.
The agency also said that "it is important to note that Jamaica Customs and the JCF continue to work together and have had successful seizures in the past".
During his interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Williams acknowledged the police and Customs have been working together.
"We are on the drive. We involve them in our training sets at the (police) academy, so that they are exposed to what are the challenges and what they need to look for. It is an ongoing thing, so they are very much a part of the awareness programme," he said.