Amid a recent surge in gun violence, a training course that aims to reduce trafficking of illegal firearms into Saint Lucia began here Tuesday for police officers, Customs and Excise officials, representatives of the postal service, and air and seaports staff.
The four-day course, funded by the German government, is being presented by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).
Deputy Permanent Secretary in Saint Lucia’s Ministry of Home Affairs, Ricky Quinlan, in an address to participants, described the training as ‘one of the best things that could have happened to Saint Lucia’.
“We regard this training opportunity as a ray of hope amid the many challenges that law enforcement is besieged by during the current pandemic. I am sure we have heard of the worsening of many pre-existing issues in the pandemic environment coupled with a dwindling of resources,” Quinlan said.
He observed that government resources are being rechanneled to assist in dealing with the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic while fewer revenues are coming in.
According to the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Saint Lucia and the Caribbean have been grappling with the entry of illegal firearms and their illicit use primarily by criminal elements to terrorise, steal, pillage, and take lives.
“The crime landscape has changed completely as guns have become the preferred weapons for settling scores no matter how trivial, resulting oftentimes in homicides,” he observed.
Quinlan expressed the view that law enforcement officials here can attest in detail to the challenges of monitoring illicit activities at the informal borders in a porous country such as Saint Lucia.
“I allude here to the maritime borders, but of course a lot of arms trafficking-related activities go on land as well as Customs can tell you and this is where the detection of firearms trafficking through postal and fast parcels and might I add, barrels and containers, takes on even greater meaning for us,” he told his audience.
“The creativity and persistence of those who are bent on illegal activities are mind-bending and so law enforcement agencies need to be equipped with cutting-edge technology, cutting-edge training to keep pace otherwise the firearms traffickers will find ways to beat the system again and again,” Quinlan declared.
Regional Crime and Security Strategy Coordinator for CARICOM IMPACS, Calixtus Joseph, explained that although the training session aims to reduce the trafficking in illegal firearms, there’s also a need to address the root cause of the problem.
Headline photo: Course participants