The Government has acquired two firearm marking machines to support its efforts to stem the illicit trafficking in small arms.
The Dot Peen machines, obtained through an agreement with the Organization of American States (OAS), will allow the authorities to trace weapons by placing marks on them, which cannot be easily erased, should they fall into the possession of criminals.
In addition to the machines, two laptop computers were also handed over for proper record keeping of the firearms marked.
At the handing over ceremony held on July 17 at the Forensic Laboratory in St. Andrew, Minister of National Security, Hon. Peter Bunting, said the accurate marking of firearms will play an integral part in the efforts to stem gun violence in Jamaica.
“...If we control the guns, then we will make significant inroads in fighting crime and lowering our homicide rate, which is among the world’s highest in per capita terms,” he said in a statement read by Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Vivian Brown.
He noted that guns have accounted for significantly more than half the murders committed for the first six months of the last four years. “The figures indicated that
67.6 per cent, 70.2 per cent, 78 per cent and 76.8 per cent of murders were committed by the gun during the first six months of 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively,” he said.
Minister Bunting noted that the technology will also allow the Government to keep tighter control of the trade in illegal guns and increase accountability for firearms and ammunition.
“It will also assist us in identifying trade patterns as the country of origin can be easily established from the specific marking. This will facilitate a more efficient and effective use of resources to target hotspots (import and export ports), hence enabling law enforcers to intercept this illegal trade from its source country,” he said.
In her remarks, Representative, OAS Office in Jamaica, Dr. Joan Neil, said that the marking of firearms is a first step to increasing security in the region and in tracking the movement of firearms within the CARICOM member states of the OAS.
The marking process, she said, permanently etches identifiable information on the firearm such as serial number, name and place of manufacturer or importer, model and calibre - for assisting law enforcement officers.
For her part, Director, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Forensic Laboratory, Dr. Judith Mowatt, informed that the markers will be used to mark weapons that are the property of the state and guns held by private licenced firearm holders. At least 200 firearms will be marked per month.
On March 29, 2012, the Government and the OAS signed a co-operation agreement for the procurement of the machines to promote arms marking in the Caribbean and the Latin American regions.
As part of the agreement, some eight staff members from the Forensic Laboratory will be trained while an undisclosed number from the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA) will also receive similar training.
With the acquisition of the machines, Jamaica joins other OAS member states in receiving firearms marking equipment and training.
These include: Argentina; Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Bahamas; Belize; Costa Rica; Dominica; Ecuador; El Salvador; Grenada; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Panama; Paraguay; St. Lucia; St. Kitts and Nevis; St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Trinidad and Tobago; and Uruguay.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter