Gov't to boost surveillance to stem illegal gun flow - Helicopters, marine patrol aircraft among new tools to combat problem

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has reported that the United States (US) has increased its cooperation and support in preventing the illegal flow of firearms from its shores into Jamaica.

Earlier this month, The Gleaner reported that 70 per cent of the illegal guns recovered across Jamaica in 2016 were sourced in the United States. The information was provided by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm (ATF). The finding is based on traces that the ATF conducted on 518 illegal firearms that the Jamaican police seized in 2016 and turned over to their American counterparts.

In November 2017, US authorities seized an arsenal of more than 119 illegal guns and hundreds of assorted rounds of ammunition in the state of Florida that had been destined for St James.

Quizzed about the extent to which the Americans were playing their part in curtailing the flow of guns into Jamaica, Chang said that the issue continued to spark debate. However, he said, "I think we are doing better at it now. They are more cooperative and supportive of the efforts.

"Of course, we have to align our activities - not only in terms of physical patrolling, but [also] our legislation - so that when we work together, there is no [impediment] in apprehending and locking up the criminals out there," Chang said at a post-Sectoral Debate press conference at the national security ministry on Oxford Road in St Andrew.

PLANS ON TRACK

Efforts to improve the security of the country's borders are well under way, according to Chang, who pointed out that plans were on track to acquire helicopters and an aircraft to provide surveillance for the country's borders.

He said that the Government would acquire five helicopters and a marine patrol aircraft by the end of the current financial year. The aircraft is now being outfitted with the required technology to provide surveillance. Chang added that the Government was also seeking to obtain coastal radar equipment to help monitor the country's coastline.

Laws to be updated to aid in fight

As Jamaica continues to grapple with the problem of illegal firearms, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has vowed to intensify strategies to combat the illicit trafficking of weapons and ammunition.

In his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in Gordon House on Tuesday, Chang said that the administration was "moving with concerted effort to enhance legislative provisions to reduce arms trafficking, disarm criminal networks, and increase penalties for the illegal use and possession of firearms".

Changes to the Firearms Act have recently been approved by Cabinet, said Chang, noting that during this legislative year, the Government would be tabling these amendments in the Houses of Parliament.

"This will reflect international best practices and see increased and updated fines as well as custodial sentences for offences committed," he stated.

BOLSTERING CONTROL

Giving details, Chang said that the amendments would bolster the control over small arms and would include import, transit, and brokering activities to prevent the illicit manufacture of and trafficking in small arms or their diversion to unauthorised recipients.

The national security minister noted that the legislative improvements would work in tandem with measures introduced at the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA), the agency which regulates the use of legal weapons and ammunition. He reported that during this financial year, the FLA would introduce online tracking for firearm applications. Additionally, the FLA will acquire a Bullettrax Marking Machine to improve the Authority's capacity to capture bullet signatures.

At the same time, Chang said that the Private Security Regulation Authority Act would be amended to improve the regulatory framework governing the private security industry. This, he added, would ensure that there were appropriate standards for the collaborative work required with the police.


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