Jason Francis, Senior Policy Advisor with the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), says that the agency stands ready to continue working along with the country to tackle the illegal trading of firearms and ammunition.
“We began in 2015 with an assessment of the forensic ballistic capabilities of St Kitts and since then we have been using that assessment as a template or as a roadmap for the activities that we would have provided St. Kitts over the years,” he said, explaining the agency has been supporting the Federation as part of an Operational Forensic Ballistics (OFB) Assistance Package offered to eight states in the Caribbean.
UNLIREC began providing technical assistance to St. Kitts and Nevis thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of State and Canada’s AntiCrime Capacity-Building Pro-gramme (ACCBP). This assistance was designed to support the efforts of Caribbean gov-ernments to combat illicit trafficking in firearms and ammunition and the resulting impact on armed violence.
During his visit to St. Kitts and Nevis, Francis was accompanied by Philip Boyce, a bal-listics technical expert with UNLIREC. The two spent several days having one-on-one meetings with various units and departments from within the Police Force, as well as with representatives from Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise Department.
They discussed the life-cycle of a firearm, that is, from the time of its recovery to the time of its destruction. They took part in an inter-institutional roundtable meeting Fri-day, Oct. 18, with all the stakeholders, including Commissioner of Police Hilroy Brandy, and Assistant Commissioner of Police with responsibility for the Crime Directorate, An-dre Mitchell.
They discussed different activities that stakeholders are involved in as it relates to the firearm, focusing on the ballistics and the ballistic intelligence, according to Francis, who noted while there was a lot of activity taking place to combat illicit firearms related to crimes in St. Kitts and Nevis, there is a need for greater coordination among the various units within the country.
“That is, information that the firearm examiner would have derived from his examination of a crime scene weapon to be able to make links between that weapon or ammunition…to multiple crime scenes or to various shootings across the country so the culmination was to…encourage St. Kitts to embrace coordination,” he said. “At the end of it we hope to see just that, St. Kitts and Nevis further embracing the fight against firearms-related crime by coordinating how the information, as it relates to firearms investigating, are shared among institutions ultimately for the benefit of the Federation to eradicate firearms related crimes.”
UNLIREC hosted an extensive Open Case File (OCF) Development Training Course in the Federation earlier this year as part of the same initiative. While last week’s activities were the final part of UNLIREC’s assistance under the OFB package, the agency expects to continue working with the Federation in the future.
“Moving forward, we hope to get feedback from the Federation as to areas of support that the Federation would like for us to consider. But we hope to continue in the near future with further assistance for St. Kitts. Not just as it relates to small arms and light weapons, but on the broader disarmament agenda,” Francis said.
To date, the Police have taken forty-three (43) firearms and over one hundred rounds of ammunition into custody.