It seems that hardly a day goes by in Jamaica that the police do not seize firearms and ammunition.
Up to November 3 this year, 637 illegal guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition had been taken in by the cops.
Based on those numbers, even the most cynical in society, of which there are many, would have to agree that the security forces have been doing a pretty good job of ridding the streets of guns and bullets.
But despite the obvious successes, there is still a proliferation of gun murders. Over 1,000 persons were murdered up to November 3 and while that figure represents a 21 per cent reduction over last year, it must be taken into account that this reduction has come in the context of three active states of emergency and two zones of special operations.
One shudders to think what the figures might have been, had these measures not been in place.
It appears that there is a skeleton equation at work here. Why are the murder figures still so high when so many guns are being removed from the criminal world?
Is it the case that the guns that are being removed are being replaced at a similar rate? Or is it that there are guns that are being used in multiple killings?
Either way, there is need for clinical forensic enquiry into the situation.
Some time ago there was talk of having ballistic identification to determine the ownership and history of individual firearms. Ballistic experts were supposed to be able to uniquely identify weapons used in murders based on certain DNA-like characteristics. Where has that plan gone and if it is in operation, why is it not more successful?
There must be a frightening number of guns floating around Jamaica, a country that does not manufacture firearms. By the end of this year the security forces, based on current trends, would have seized just about 700 guns. They had similar figures last year and the year before. What will it be for next year? Get the picture?
Surely there are guns coming through the ports illegally on a daily basis. The former Minister of National Security Robert Montaque announced billions of dollars in investment in surveillance aircraft and equipment but yet the ports are still like large perforation sieves.
Sad as it is, the entire situation seems as ridiculous as a donkey chasing its tail. It is pointless to have the hard working security forces risking their lives to recover these guns and ammunition, even as the endless supply continues to flood into the country.
Surely more can be done to better protect our borders.
The Customs Agency was just recently giving a big boast about surpassing its revenue targets and posting a massive surplus. Clearly, they are more into the money making than the border protection business.
If their primary mandate is to earn revenue for the government, so let it be. But it means therefore that the government must examine its security apparatus and create a dedicated force, or boost the departments within the JCF and the JDF to focus on detecting and intercepting guns and ammunition coming into the island. Given the rate at which these tools of murder are coming in, that would be a full-time job requiring unique skill sets.
So while the security forces are to be commended, hold the champagne because the problem will never be solved until we get to the root.
By Petra Plundah