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Despite seizing 80 more firearms and 767 rounds of ammunition in 2021 than it did last year, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) still grapples with murders committed with the use of a gun.
Just recently, cops seized eight firearms in one weekend, which have been included in the tally of 640 removed from the streets this year, along with 8,993 rounds of ammunition.
The breakdown of the firearms, as provided by the JCF, indicates that they seized 472 pistols, 45 rifles, 14 submachine guns, 14 shotguns, 67 revolvers, and 28 home-made firearms.
In 2020, cops removed from the streets 43 rifles, 10 submachine guns, 20 shotguns, 378 pistols, 70 revolvers and 39 home-made guns.
Even with frequent lockdowns and curfews and the fact that less incidents of shooting have occurred than in 2020, murders this year have surpassed 1, 332, which is roughly a 10 per cent increase over the corresponding period from January 1 to November 30 in 2020 when there were 1,213 slayings. The St Andrew South Police Division accounted for 156 murders; St James, 143; St Catherine South, 127; and Kingston Western, 103. Other divisions islandwide recorded murder figures below 100.
Commenting on the increase in murders despite the seizure of more firearms, security expert Jason McKay told the Jamaica Observer that gun seizures are “great”, but Jamaica being a small island with no navy, “the amount of guns coming in illegally far surpasses what we could possibly seize”.
“Our activities at our ports make it far easier for guns to be imported into the country illegally. The 640 is an incredible effort by the JCF and Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), but will it necessarily impact crime in the long run? I say no, because there are just so much more guns.”
McKay added that the increase in gun seizures is an indication of the high level of crime being experienced by the nation. He pointed out that seizures usually increase when police and military operations become heightened due to high crime. He said the police and military were doing a commendable job finding the weapons, but highlighted that there are far more guns out there that they can seize.
“Sometimes there is a misunderstanding about gun seizures. Gun seizures go up when operations go up. You only will have more operations when you have more homicides. The higher the crime is, the more police operations. The more police operations, the more guns are seized.
“If you have low crime, you won't have as much police operations so you don't have as many guns seized. The operations are as a result of the high crime, and when I say high crime I am speaking specifically to homicides, because other crimes are down,” McKay said.
“What will impact crime is when we start to get the guys who are using the guns because those guys are in limited supply. As good and commendable as gun seizures are, I think we should focus a little bit more on keeping them when we catch them,” he said.
McKay criticised the courts for giving light sentences to people found guilty of gun-related offences.
“What is happening is that we are catching them and since we changed the Bail Act they are getting bail. We are convicting them, but since we changed the Gun Court Act, with easy fines, low fines, and non-custodial sentences, they are going, back out there,” he argued.
“Let us say there probably are a million guns out there, but there are 10,000 gangsters and most of them, at some point, see the Gun Court. We have a revolving door, either by bail or by low sentences in the Gun Court. We have to somehow revisit the Bail Act constitutionally and remove it for gun offences and then we need to look about going back to the 20- to 25-year sentences for the possession of a firearm. Anything else is just flexing muscle but will not have an impact nationally,” McKay said.
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