ILLEGAL firearms used in the continued spate of serious crimes are coming to this country from North America through legal ports said National Security Minister Stuart Young. He made the comment while addressing a Trinidad Union Club luncheon on Wednesday at the Kapok Hotel, Port of Spain.
"Contrary to what people may think, there was a time when it (guns) may have come from South America.
"When you see the vast majority of serious crimes and murders these days, with the use of sophisticated firearms like AR15s and glocks, those are coming from North America. Those don't come from South America."
More alarming to Young is that the contraband items move through legal ports of entry like the Port of Port-of-Spain and Point Lisas. He said the question of where illegal arms and ammunitions originate from is important to the fight against crime.
"Guns are hidden in engine blocks, barrels, dog chow and these types of things.
"What do we do in respect to that? Traditionally Customs and Excise is the body charged with the legal responsibility for securing our legal ports of entry."
Young said a multi-agency approach to the issue would be employed as the onus was too much for the Customs and Excise Division. He said he had been meeting with the National Security Council and Cabinet over the past view weeks in order to drive that approach. He said methods of integrating the operation of various arms of national security into the daily duties of the Customs were discussed.
"If we have the benefit of Customs working alongside the police service, defence force and intelligence services, you get everyone's strengths and a guard the guards system.
He lamented that at TT's ports there had been a heavy investment in technology which was not being used. There will now be a focus to increase technological capabilities, mainly in the form of scanners, at all legal ports of entry.
"Technology is being more and more implemented. We are seeking to drive that and bring in more technology because our criminals are sophisticated."
"What we've done on that side is introduce the scanner system."
While the Piarco International Airport is not one of the ports Young identified as a major point of entry for illegals arms and ammunitions, he noted that efforts would still be strengthened.
In boosting efforts at the airport, he said customs workers would not necessarily look like US Customs and Border Patrol officers who walk around with bulletproof vests and side arms to take on a more intimidating look.
"Hopefully the scanners are working at the airport. You have people who choose to go through the green line as opposed to the red line knowing they have stuff to declare. That's where the scanners come in."
On the issue of Customs being short-staffed, he said the national security ministry has been looking into efforts to increase capacity. Apart from this, certain elements which he did not reveal would get specialised training to assist in arms detection.