The Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, or Caricom IMPACS, will now concentrate more on pursuing all parties engaged in the illicit trafficking of firearms rather than only seizures, following initial negotiations with the US State Department’s Office of Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions.
Governments throughout the Caribbean are still quite concerned about this, as the majority of the guns are linked to the United States.
- Advertisement -
To help fight this, US Vice President Kamala Harris stated in June that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has established a new section called Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions.
The US State Secretary Anthony Blinken said US prosecutor Michael Ben’Ary had been named the division’s coordinator during his July visit to Trinidad and Tobago.
The DOJ’s office responded to a news media inquiry via email with an update on what has been done since,”(does) not have anything publicly available to provide beyond the announcement at this time.”
Nonetheless, it was also anticipated that the agency would work with Caricom IMPACS. Michael Jones, the executive director of IMPACS, told Sunday Newsday that on November 3, he “had discussions” regarding the partnership.
He expressed gratitude that the collaboration has finally been realized, calling it “a repeated call” from Caricom.
While it’s significant that illicit guns headed for the Caribbean have been found, Jones, “What success would look like, for us, would be to identify and successfully prosecute all of those persons (sic) (people) who are or were involved from the purchasing done abroad, facilitating the shipment along the way, to those receiving them in our respective home states.”
US customs seized 520 factory-built guns between 2016 and 2021, while the T&T police force confiscated 4,087 between 2017 and 2021, according to a report released by Caricom IMPACS in April 2023.
According to Jones, the majority of this kind of illicit commerce takes place as far west as Texas and along the eastern sea border. He stated that Ben’Ary will not consider matters involving the Caribbean.
“…Which essentially coincides with where our diaspora tends to inhabit or be located.”
According to him, the US prosecutes crimes of this nature more quickly than the Caribbean.
“There are 93 US attorneys across (that) country and when these cases happen, (Ben’Ary) would identify the particular US attorney to take this or that particular case as a priority given the political sensitivities concerning the issue.”
Jones also mentioned Ben’Ary “intends to visit as many of the Caribbean countries as possible” – both members of Caricom and those who are not.
A representative for the US Embassy e-mailed the news media that the US and the Caribbean prioritize stopping the illegal gun trade. “an important aspect of our cooperation to address rising levels of crime and violence in the region.
“US law enforcement and border security agencies and the Department of State work with Caribbean counterparts and regional institutions to build Caribbean capacity to detect and interdict illegally trafficked firearms and ammunition, and promote coordination and information sharing between law enforcement and border security agencies.”
The spokesman stated in September that “Operation Hammerhead” was started in conjunction with Caricom IMPACS by HSI (Homeland Security Investigations), Joint Task Force East, and CBP (Customs and Border Protection).
“To date, Operation Hammerhead reviewed 211,061 Caribbean-bound exports, referred 1,924 with some level of risk (tiered system), and supported eight firearms trafficking investigations.”
It further added, “During Operation Hammerhead’s time frame – 48 pistols, ten rifles, ten magazines, four revolvers, and 3,371 rounds of ammunition have been seized in/destined for the Caribbean.”
Contact attempts were made by the media outlet to both Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood Christopher and Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds, but all messages and calls were not returned.