Cops not equipped to handle coast smugglers - DSP Bernard
Adrian Frater, News Editor
Western Bureau: Despite arresting some nine alleged drug runners within the last 11 days, the St Elizabeth police say they are not properly equipped to blunt unwelcome incursions by Central American smugglers.
"The entire south(-west) coast from Alligator Pond (St Elizabeth) down to Whitehouse (Westmoreland) is pretty much wide open to these drug traffickers," said Deputy Superintendent of Police Paul Bernard, the operations officer for the St Elizabeth Police Division, albeit noting that the police have three marine bases in the area.
According to Bernard, the smugglers, who are mostly from Costa Rica, are equipped with much better boats than the local police and clearly have more petrol at their disposal.
"Their (the drug smugglers) boats normally have 200 horse-power engines, while our boats have much smaller engines," he said.
Unlike former years when the vast majority of the smugglers entering Jamaican waters were from Nicaragua, Haiti and Honduras, Bernard said Costa Ricans are taking over as the primary players in ganja smuggling.
Bernard also said that, unlike their predecessors, the Costa Ricans are not interested in the fearsome guns-for-drugs trade, which has been a nightmare for law enforcement in recent years.
"Our intelligence is suggesting that the Costa Ricans are all about drug smuggling ... . They bring in money and take out ganja ... although we understand that they sometimes bring in cocaine."
In their most recent encounter with the smugglers, the St Elizabeth police nabbed four Costa Ricans and a Honduran national, who had entered the island illegally in the Treasure Beach area. The men, who were arrested for illegal entry, subsequently confessed that they were on an illegal ganja-smuggling mission, The Gleaner has been told.
Prior to Sunday's incident, the police arrested four central American men - two Costa Ricans and two Nicaraguans - on September 24. The men, who were held at Ocean Beach in south St Elizabeth, were charged with illegal entry after it was discovered that they had no travel documents.
After pleading guilty to the charges when they appeared in the Black River Resident Magistrate's Court, the quartet was order deported by the presiding magistrate. The five men who were arrested on Sunday are expected to face a similar fate.