BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – AN agency of the United Nations has signalled its intention to continue rendering assistance to the twin-island Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis in its efforts to combat the illegal trading of firearms and ammunition.
According to a police communiqué, that assertion was made by a representative of the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC).
Prior to this recent announcement, the agency had been providing technical assistance to the Federation through a grant from the US Department of State and Canada’s Anti-Crime Capacity-Building Programme (ACCBP).
That assistance was designed to support the efforts of Caribbean governments to combat illicit trafficking in firearms and ammunition, as well as the resulting impact on armed violence.
The communiqué stated that Senior Policy Advisor with the UNLIREC, Jason Francis explained that the agency has been supporting the Federation as part of an Operational Forensic Ballistics (OFB) Assistance Package that was offered to seven other states in the Caribbean.
“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,” Francis said.
While in the Federation, Francis was accompanied by Philip Boyce, a ballistics technical expert with the UNLIREC.
The two of them had spent several days last week engaged in one-on-one meetings with various units and departments of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force, as well as with representatives from Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise Department.
During those meetings, they discussed the life-cycle of a firearm, which is from the time of its recovery to the time of its destruction.
And on Friday (Oct.18) an inter-institutional roundtable meeting was held with all the stakeholders, including Commissioner of Police Hilroy Brandy and Assistant Commissioner of Police with responsibility for the Crime Directorate, Andre Mitchell.
The Senior Policy Advisor disclosed that they had discussed the different activities within which stakeholders are involved, relating to firearm, focusing on ballistics and ballistic intelligence.
Francis noted that there was a lot of activity taking place to combat illicit firearms which were related crimes in St. Kitts and Nevis, but identified 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,” Francis 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,” he added.
Earlier this year, as part of the same initiative, the UNLIREC had hosted an extensive Open Case File Development Training Course in the Federation.
Last week’s activities, however, were the final part of the UNLIREC’s assistance under the OFB package, and 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.
For this year, the police have taken 43 firearms and over 100 rounds of ammunition off the streets of St. Kitts and Nevis.