by Eulana Weekes
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): A total of 20 weapons have been taken off the streets of the Federation during the first half of 2023, and the Police High Command is optimistic that collaborative policing locally, regionally and internationally will bode well for the country in its crime-fighting efforts.
Making a presentation at the Wednesday, July 19 edition of ‘InFocus’, Assistant Commissioner of Police Mr Andre Mitchell said locally, the Police is establishing a Gun Investigation Unit and is also following up on a United Nations Agreement aimed at curbing gun-related crimes by 2030.
“When you’re dealing with gun-related crimes, you have to collaborate, not only locally but regionally. As the Commissioner said, there is a setting up of the Gun Investigation Unit. There is also work working with the Caribbean. There is an agreement through the UN to stop the proliferation of firearms around the Caribbean or in the Caribbean in a sustainable manner by the year 2030. They set out four goals which we have to implement because we are a part of that agreement. We have a national action plan. We have a team to work [on] this plan. One of the areas is to reinforce the regulatory framework. There’s another goal which speaks to bolstering law enforcement’s capacity to deal with firearms and ammunition. Training people- one of the capacity-building initiatives that was undertaken just recently was one that has to do with identifying component parts and ammunition coming through our local ports. So, there are four goals, and there are 55 priority actions that we need to follow, which we are following, and this is very important if we are going to stem the flow of firearm-related crimes in our Federation,” Mitchell stated.
Thus far, local police have maintained its crime detection rate, which is currently at 31% of the 33% average mark based on international standards. Mitchell said ballistic testing and E- tracing has helped with investigations.
“There have been cases where a gun has been used to commit a number of offences, and we know that because we do our ballistics. We do our ballistics right here, and we also do E-trace, where we discover where the guns came from. Where [they] were purchased. There is information that guns come into our Federation that would have been involved in other crimes internationally. So it’s all about working together, sharing information and using specialised equipment to analyse the firearms when those firearms are retrieved from the streets of St. Kitts and Nevis,” said Mitchell
Deputy Commissioner Mr Cromwell Henry chimed in on the discussion, sharing some success stories from the Forensic Department via its use of the ballistic testing mechanism.
Henry stated, “In the past, we used to send our firearms overseas to be tested ballistically or fly in a ballistic expert each time we had a gun case to test our weapons. We now have the capability to do it locally. In fact, we have been assisting other regional countries in their own examination of firearms ballistically. So, we have the necessary equipment to do the comparisons between shells found at scenes and weapons that are recovered to determine whether or not the weapon was used in a particular crime. We are able to link the weapons that were used in crimes here with crimes in other jurisdictions. In fact, in one instance, persons got jail time in the U.S. for weapons that were found in St. Kitts following their investigation. So, we were able to link a weapon found in St. Kitts to persons in the U.S., and those persons are currently serving time.”
“Are there any plans to have a Gun Amnesty or Gun Buyback Programme?” asked Mr Ian Richards, host of ‘InFocus’ to the Police High Command.
Mr Cromwell Henry said discussions have been ongoing about a Gun Amnesty Programme, but with the awareness that criminals can take advantage and use the programme to their benefit if not properly executed.
“That was discussed. We haven’t definitively concluded on that, but it is a matter that is being discussed; whether we should do it, or how it should be done, and what are the benefits of such a program. We have seen in other jurisdictions where it was done, and the criminals use it to their advantage. They would bring in their old guns and keep their better guns [or] they get paid for the old guns that they [brought] in, and they go and buy a better one. So, you bring in an old gun and get $2,000 from the Government, and then you go and buy a new one for $2,000. So, we’ve seen where criminals have used such a program to their benefit, and so we have to carefully examine the pros and the cons before we come to a conclusion [as to] whether or not that is something that we would want to try.”
Meanwhile, the St. Kitts – Nevis Cabinet is discussing the introduction of tougher penalties for individuals who are found guilty of gun-related crimes. The Police High Command said the decision is welcomed and may hopefully serve as a deterrent to individuals who have criminal intent.