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Mark Wignall | Questions on that gun find

Published:Wednesday | April 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM

The recent seizure of eight firearms and more than a thousand rounds of ammunition at the Montego Bay wharf is to be commended. The police are on the ball, working, working, working.

Are they really?

"We had reasons to be suspicious about the contents of two barrels, and after a careful examination and search of their contents, the find was made," said Senior Superintendent Marlon Nesbeth.

Let's step back a little and examine the matter. Many times when the police report a 'find' of guns, ammunition, or a big drug haul, it is not as if they were searching for marbles and just happened upon the dangerous contraband. It means they were acting on information.

While I cannot tell the security forces how to do their work or conduct operations in tight spaces, I still believe more could have been done.

Information comes in that guns and ammunition are on the wharf. The info is assessed and it is deemed very credible. Every shipment has a shipper and a receiver, known as the consignee. Apart from seizing the goods, certainly, the major objective ought to be the capture, arrest and successful conviction of consignee and, if possible, the shipper.




So, as I put on my imaginary police uniform, I enter the office of the boss of the wharf company and explain to him what are my objectives. I also do the same to the boss at Customs. On the assumption that they are all above board, arrangements are made for the police to place a deep undercover agent on the docks. His job is to monitor the package and he has to do so in the most innocuous way by acting as just another wharf hand.

At some stage, the consignee or his representative is going to visit the wharf company with a Bill of Lading and it has to validated to ensure that what was shipped matches up to the package on the docks. After that, there will be a visit to pay whatever customs duties are due.

The next step is to await the collection of the package at its passage through the wharf gate. It's very important that the police capture copies of the gate pass for successful prosecution in the courts. As the package leaves the docks, the last leg of the undercover operation clicks in. Unmarked police vehicles will be following the vehicle carrying the package.

Two or three vehicles will be used for this so that suspicion is lessened. As one vehicle breaks off, another takes over. Finally, the package arrives at its destination and a big police swoop down occurs.




Many years ago, I used to be close to a shipping company, so I know more than a little about the operations. I know it is not as cut and dried as I have made it out to be, but many times I get the sense that our police personnel allow the need for a sensational gun find to get in the way of full and complete police work.

I know what the negatives are facing the police in such matters. Many times when a significant drug shipment out of the island is being made, the criminals have their own 'agents' on the docks and those agents are corrupt workers employed to the dock company. But there is another dangerous twist to it.

In the early 1980s, a very observant worker on the Kingston docks reported a matter to his supervisor. As a result, a container was opened and among many legitimate goods were found dozens of packages of compressed ganja. The police were called in, including the usual police photographer.

The ganja was seized and held by the police and a big report was made in the media. There were no arrests. A few months later, surprisingly at the same wharf, the smell of ganja lingered around a container. As in the first instance, a worker became suspicious and alerted his supervisor. Another ganja find stopped on its way out of the island.

Again, the police were called in. As the same police photographer snapped his pictures, in the presence of wharf workers, he blurted out, "But mi nuh tek dem picture yah already!"

The same packages!