An impending change to Caribbean crime fighting

Regional security expert Francis Forbes.
Photo by George Alleyne

Expert on regional security matters and former Jamaica Police Commissioner, Francis Forbes, has warned that the Caribbean faces a growing threat, which would radically change the methods of law enforcement.

He told a Caribbean and Latin America meeting on natural and man-made menaces to the region, in Barbados this week, that recent seizures of large weapon caches, new technology guns, and citizens trained in advanced terrorism tactics present the unnatural hazards that add to threats to the well-being of Caribbean persons.

Forbes, the executive director of CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) said that not only are the people of the Caribbean facing growing disturbances by the increased number of illegal weapons on the streets, but also that some items in the arsenal are difficult to detect, and users of these armaments are being trained by international terrorist groups such as the Middle Eastern located, Islamic State, or ISIS.

“Between 2006 and last year, 20,000 illegal firearms were removed from the streets,” said Forbes, who served as Jamaica’s commissioner of police for 10 years, ending in 2005.

Accounting for last year alone, he said that in 13 of IMPACS’ 15 full-member states, there were 2,178 murders; 1,596 rapes; 10,227 robberies; 2,488 illegal guns seized, alongside 32,364 rounds of ammunition.

He said that the success of the arms and ammunition seizure means very little in face of the ‘alarming’ fact that there are polymer, modular, and 3-D printed weapons.

Polymer and 3-D printed weapons have a relative low metal content, or none at all, making them undetectable by scanners at airports and other entrances that use some security mechanism.

“There is no doubt that this is indeed a man-made disaster of epic proportions unfolding slowly, but surely,” he said, and added, “the issue of these new-type of weapons now demands greater attention.”

Forbes added, “the current terrorism picture takes into account the return of foreign terrorist fighters; the nexus between terrorism and organised crime; the potential spread of a radical ideology, and the introduction of advanced military tactics and technology.”

Forbes painted a picture of regional ‘dynamic threats’, which he split in two, with the first part being the traditional dangers of trans-national organised crime, guns, drugs, gangs, and money-laundering, trafficking in persons.

He said the second part of that picture comprises evolving menaces such as cybercrimes, new psycho-active and counterfeit drugs; terrorism; cyber-terrorism, and electronic crimes.

He added as uncategorised, the potential of trained persons to target the critical Caribbean infrastructure.

The security expert said that the trend of Caribbean nationals obtaining training in social disturbance abroad introduces another presence in the regional security threat.

“It is no secret that some of our citizens, men, women and children, are migrating to join groups such as ISIS. There is proof that approximately 200 citizens from one member state alone have already migrated to Syria, intending to join ISIS.”

He conceded, “no one knows for sure the exact number, and identification of these ISIS volunteers,” but said many are coming back. “Some have found the going a bit too rough and have voluntarily returned home, while others have been forcibly turned back whilst enroute.”

“This group, many of whom have already been trained in terrorist strategies and tactics will pose a significant threat to this region for years to come.”

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