The Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), in partnership with U.S. law enforcement agencies, launched the CARICOM Crime Gun Intelligence Unit (CCGIU) in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in late 2022.
“We will begin the unit’s work with eight agents, of which five will be from CARICOM member countries and the remaining three will be from the United States,” Barbados Defence Force Lieutenant Colonel Michael Jones, CARICOM IMPACS executive director, told Diálogo on December 16. “All CCGIU members will be background checked by CARICOM IMPACS and our U.S. partners.”
This group will assist regional authorities in firearms-related criminal investigations using state-of-the-art intelligence tools and technology, also collaborating with regional and international law enforcement agencies including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (HSI); Customs and Border Protection (CBP); and the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).
The CCGIU will be located at the CARICOM IMPACS headquarters in Port of Spain and will work with the Regional Intelligence Fusion Centre and the IMPACS-Joint Regional Communications Centre to provide intelligence analysis.
“These agents will be supported by the Barbados Office and other agents from the U.S.,” Lt. Col. Jones said. “We will coordinate with the Caribbean bloc member states so that the new unit gets all possible assistance to work in the territories.”
In October, the CARICOM Ministerial Council for National Security and Law Enforcement (CONSLE) carried out its 24th Meeting in Jamaica, endorsing the establishment of the CCGIU as a critical tool to assist CARICOM in the investigation and prosecution of firearms-related crimes.
“The firearms problem is one of four identified by our CONSLE as priorities to address, the others being cybersecurity, border and maritime security, and human trafficking,” Lt. Col. Jones said. “The reason firearms are listed as a priority issue is that when you look at the homicide rate in some of our member states, they are some of the highest in the world, even higher than some countries with armed conflict.”
CARICOM had taken note of the situation, leading to the decision to create the CCGIU. “Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean are experiencing not just a surge, but a tsunami of crime and violence,” Fitzgerald Hinds, Trinidad and Tobago’s minister of National Security, said at the launch of the CCGIU, regional news site Loop Caribbean reported.
“Every day an average of 13 young people between the ages of 16 to 30 die in the CARICOM region,” Lt. Col. Jones said. “It’s a problem that impacts foreign direct investment, citizen security, and many other issues.”
The CARICOM IMPACS executive director said that they already have the final list of nominees who will integrate the unit and are expected to get the go-ahead from them in January 2023, with the support of U.S. agencies.
“What we are most interested in is catching the mafias, getting to the networks, identifying who is buying the weapons and who is moving them. We’re not just interested in recovering the weapons, because if we only accomplish that it means we are behind,” said Lt. Col. Jones. “We want to get to the root of the problem and take the mafias out of the game before they get their way. We have the United States and other allies on board, and so this is a great opportunity to meet the challenge and generate a positive impact for the benefit of our regional economy and the security of the region.”