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Aug 11, 2015

Customs and Police Departments Take Firearms Training

The introduction of illegal firearms presents a huge challenge for the region; this week a training exercise is taking place in Belize with the support of Central American Integration System, SICA, to strengthen the competence of the Customs and Police Department. These are the agencies at the forefront in the fight against the smuggling of firearms in containers and luggage. But there are other ways in which firearms are illegally brought into the country. Duane Moody looks at the training that has the support of the European Union.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

For the next three days, thirty-nine officers of the Customs and Police Departments from across the country will be receiving training on the identification of firearms and their parts in containers and luggage. The initiative aims to strengthen the operational capacity of the authorities to respond to the illicit trafficking of parts and firearms into the country.

 

Andres Makin Sr.

Andres Makin Sr., OC, Dangerous Goods Department, Police Headquarters

“Training is always important and this one specifically has to deal with small arms firing and so forth in containers, vehicles and other vessels and I think it is something that is necessary for us in Belize. Knowing our situation when it comes to firearms, trafficking and smuggling, etc., etc. it is going to have an impact on us and I think it is going to put us on a better footing in the future.”

 

The course, which is funded by the European Union, is being carried out by the Central American Program on Small Arms and Light Weapons Control, CASAC, of the General Secretariat of the Central American Integration System, SICA. This week, the coordinators are in Belize. The participants will be taught the legal component, basic ballistics, identification of firearms and their parts as well as police intervention and protocols.

 

Collin Griffith

Collin Griffith, Deputy Comptroller, Compliance & Enforcement, Customs Department

“The information that will be provided by the experts through CASAC will assist the officers in improving their competence in respect to understanding the mode and the way in which smugglers will introduce illegal firearms to our borders. The course primarily is focused on the smuggling of firearms in containers and luggage so it is definitely a win-win for the Customs Department in proving their knowledge in respect to the importation in this illegal way. We do have a case that occurred in 2008, where a barrel was shipped out of Los Angeles that contained a tech-nine and two other types of firearms. So that is the only time that we have found firearms in barrels. We have also found money in barrels and it is an indication that the barrel trade is one of the modus that these smugglers would use. So in partaking in this course and also opening our doors to other adjacencies to do joint examination of barrels…we have done that more than once; we have used even the k-nine unit to assist us.”

 

But criminal elements are very crafty in the manner in which they introduce firearms in country and despite measures in place; illegal firearms are still brought into the country right under the noses of the authorities. So is the system flawed?

 

Collin Griffith

“The Customs Department does perform front line duties at the border and we have to also be cognizant of the fact that our borders are very porous. The amount of villages on the Rio Hondo and the problem that we have been having with other commodities being smuggled into Belize, it doesn’t necessarily means that it passes through the border. But we have had instances at the border and also what is important in this course is that the possibility also exists that firearms could be smuggled broken down and the course will also focus on the identification of components for firearms.”

 

Andres Makin Sr.

“Knowing that we have wide borders and so forth, the risk of smuggling firearm is always there. So we are always suspicious whenever containers are being brought into our country or are n into our country. It is always brings a serious suspicion.”

 

Duane Moody

“Most persons would say we see all these criminal people in the city with firearms. How did they get these firearms? How did they get into the country undetected?”

 

Andres Makin Sr.

“As I’ve said, our borders are wide and we are unable to man our borders the way we’d want to. So we are vulnerable when it comes to our borders. And then likewise in containers, if we are not trained in regards to detecting when these firearms are being smuggled in, in parts, and so forth, then we will never be able to detect.”

 

As part of the practical instructions, several exercises will be done in the luggage and air cargo area of the Phillip Goldson International Airport as well as vehicular inspections. Duane Moody for News Five.

 

The training concludes on Thursday with a practical exercise on how to detect firearms in cargo. 

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