From left to right - Commissioner of Police, Gary Griffith, Minister of National Security, Stuart Young MP; British High Commissioner to T&T, Her Excellency Harriet Cross; and UNLIREC Senior Adviser, Jason Francis. (Image courtesy Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator)

A month of capacity-building training to help Trinidad and Tobago’s national security agencies combat firearm-related crimes was officially launched on Monday March 8th, with an executive-level training seminar on forensic ballistics intelligence, as part of a joint initiative between the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) and the British High Commission.

Over the next two weeks, this cross-agency partnership will provide national law enforcement with training and dialogue on:

●     Forensic ballistics intelligence

●     Firearms tracing

●     Restoration of firearm serial numbers

●     Inter-institutional roundtable meetings

●     A pilot study to enhance timely production of ballistics intelligence

During the inaugural activity, which was held at the Police Administration Building on Monday, some 28 executives and senior officials from national security agencies in Trinidad and Tobago attended a high-level seminar to discuss the importance of strategic ballistics intelligence and how it can be used in effective law enforcement investigations and prosecutions.

Participants came from the executive level of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) and senior management levels at the Forensic Science Centre, Customs, the Strategic Services Agency (SSA), and the Ministry of National Security (International Affairs Unit, Office of Law Enforcement Policy).

Experts from the UK National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS), the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), and the International Police Organization (INTERPOL), made presentations on the role of firearm examiners in ballistics intelligence, information management, strategic ballistics intelligence and firearms programme/policing capabilities.

National Security Minister, Stuart Young MP, underscored the importance employing ballistics information in crime fighting.

“Ballistics intelligence is huge,” he said.  “The positive effects of being able to pinpoint intelligence with the use of ballistics evidence is going to be critical in detection, solving crimes and successful prosecution.”

The joint training initiatives being offered by UNLIREC and the British High Commission over the next two weeks aim to help Trinidad and Tobago advance its implementation of the Caribbean Firearms Roadmap—a regional plan developed by CARICOM states with support from UNLIREC and CARICOM IMPACS to help the region combat illicit firearms and ammunition trafficking.

British High Commissioner, Her Excellency Harriet Cross, praised this inter-agency collaboration and applauded Trinidad and Tobago’s work in advancing its targets under the Roadmap.

“We commend the thorough work being done by UNLIREC in Trinidad and Tobago and throughout the wider Caribbean. And I’m really pleased that through our Conflict, Stability and Security Programme, we’ve been able to partner with UNLIREC in this region by funding this support to Trinidad and Tobago,” she said.

She added: “I would also like to applaud Trinidad and Tobago for your commitment to the Roadmap and the proactive approach that you’ve taken to your national action plan. It’s really impressive, and I encourage you to continue this excellent cross-agency working which is really the key to delivering strong results and lasting change.”

Police Commissioner, Gary Griffith, pointed out that the seminar was a testament to “the strong relationship that the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, through the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, has with our international allies.”

Rates of armed violence in the Caribbean surpass many other parts of the world, with approximately 70% of homicides in this region caused by firearms—compared to a global average of 30%.  Ballistics intelligence supported by strong operational structures can improve the success of investigations and prosecutions by generating new information and new investigative leads, while also connecting crimes and criminals previously viewed in isolation.

The UK and T&T have a longstanding commitment to security cooperation, tackling shared challenges including transnational crime, corruption, money laundering and terrorism.  

Similarly, UNLIREC has been providing Trinidad and Tobago with technical assistance since 2010, to combat the illicit use of small arms and light weapons by providing training in firearm examination, assessing the backlog of ballistics cases at the Forensic Science Centre and aiding in the destruction of nearly 4,000 weapons and nine tonnes of ammunition.