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Securing the country's guns

Published:Monday | February 8, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Collin Greenland, Contributor


Recent events have propelled the efficiency of our police force's inventory management system (or lack of) into the forefront of our attention. Though tragic, the alert but fortuitous find of the weapons cache on Munster Road may serve to convince officialdom that the efforts and resources spent on direct enforcement must be matched with equal proficiency in their 'back-office' operations, including the Jamaica Constabulary Force's (JCF) inventory and manage-ment of their armoury. After we have vented our outrage, finished our pontifi-cating and finger-pointing, then more objective, professional solutions will have to be found.

Armouries have an obvious, critical need to ensure weapons are accurately accounted for at all times! Let us not be naïve or impractical to think that modern professional methods will completely remove dishonesty. However, what is certain is that appropriate security and control features can contribute to better detection successes than that of depending on the more alert and honourable officers to stumble across the misdeeds of their 'squaddies'. Knowing also that there is more 'cutting-edge' inventory manage-ment controls operating may act as a more powerful deterrent to other officers who may be tempted to breach the trust placed on them by our nation.

Additional precautions

Weapons, because of their very nature, require additional security precautions. Other types of items requiring enhanced levels of security and safety include cash, narcotics, precious and semi-precious metals, collector coins and stamps, and negotiable instruments. Modern-day best practices in weapons armoury management try to move away from the anachronistic paper-based systems of the past as filling out paperwork is time-consuming and, unlike computers, do not trap potential errors. In addition, pre-printed forms are expensive, and filled-out forms may be lost or rendered unreadable. Advanced systems today automate and digitise the processes and manage and track inventory of their armories with a database system.

Weapons accountability entail the use of 'bullet-proof' manage-ment of all weapons, ammunition, gear and accessories, and include features such as chain-of-custody control, bar code and RFID (radio frequency) tracking and biometric (e.g. fingerprint/retina) identifi-cation. State-of-the-art ARMS (Armoury Management Software) can be procured off the shelf and developed using, for example, Java and Open Source software tools, without costly upgrades and maintenance. Databases, user interface, tags, electronic forms and workflow can be customised to meet the specific requirements of the Jamaican crime-fighting peculiarities and provide powerful monitoring features.

Other strategies

A look at what is happening in the rest of the world in law enforcement may also assist us. In order to monitor the revolvers, semi-automatic pistols, rifles, carbines, shotguns, teargas guns, and submachine guns used by the Federal Burea of Investigation (FBI), they employ an automated property management application (PMA) "to properly and accurately account for all property that the FBI acquires, transfers, and retires".

The PMA use a variety of data fields to identify each item, including a barcode number assigned by the FBI, the serial number, the cost-centre code for the office where the item is located, a description of the item, and other necessary information. The PMA also records a cost-centre code for all items assigned to individual employees rather than an office and can generate a "property charged out" report that documents all accountable property assigned to each active and separated employee.

Firearms lost or stolen can contribute to immeasurable physical harm to the public or greatly compromise our national security. Let us, however, secure our guns with structured approaches that involve modern-day best practices of armoury inventory and management, and in so doing prevent another Munster Road incident.

Collin Greenland is a forensic accountant. Feedback may be sent to