People with information on illegal guns may be able to receive at least $2,500 in cash as a reward if they pass on their information to Crime Stoppers TT, as the crime-fighting organisation joins forces with the police to tackle illegal guns.
The programme, which aims to find and seize 1,000 illegal guns over the next four months, was announced at the weekly police media briefing on Sackville Street, Port of Spain, on Wednesday.
Acting Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said the police and Crime Stoppers would play active roles in the exercise, but citizens themselves must step up and give the information to protect themselves and their communities.
He said the information given would go a long way towards disrupting criminal activities and reminded the public that the seizure of a single gun meant the possible prevention of several murders.
"Exposing a firearm can prevent your own child from being killed.
"We intend to find avenues through Crime Stoppers, through our police app through 482-GARY – you would be getting opportunities to give us that information without any fear of reprisal.
He said this was a massive operation and required teamwork between law-abiding citizens and the law-enforcement officials.
"So if you are aware that someone has a gun under a piece of galvanise or somewhere, bring it to our attention. We intend to push heavily over the next four months."
Griffith said for the past two decades, the police typically found between 800 and 1,000 illegal guns a year.
Director of Crime Stoppers Darrin Carmichael also called on the public to come forward with information on illegal weapons. The reward for information on a gun starts at $2,500, but he said informants may receive more, depending on how much ammunition was seized with the gun or whether the gun was used in a crime.
"When you think of it, you may be in a position to observe whether it's a shipment coming in, you may be in a house where (illegal) activities are going on – and I make a special appeal to the thousands of eyes and ears out there in the different neighbourhood watch communities, of which I am a part as well.
"There are people out there who are observing activities around homes, abandoned areas, bushes and so on where they know something illegal is happening.
"We urge you in this time to call it in, share that information with us. That tip may reveal if a weapon was linked to several robberies, homicides –whatever it might be.
"So there is a build-up. You might start off with a $2,500 tip, but with the amount of ammunition found it goes up, with the fact that (weapon) may be linked to a couple robberies it goes up, and so on."
Responding to concerns over the safety of giving information, Carmichael insisted that in its 22 years of operating in TT, the identities of Crime Stoppers callers have never been revealed.
He said operators did not ask for personal information when receiving calls.
To further protect information on tipsters, Crime Stoppers now had an online portal where tips could be made and allowed people giving information to choose at which branch of Scotiabank they preferred to receive their reward.
"Somebody may be living in Sangre Grande and prefer to collect it in Port of Spain. Just let us know which branch you prefer, ask to speak to the operations manager when you get there, and you will receive your reward."
Also at the conference was DCP McDonald Jacob, who said once a gun was seized, the ballistics department of the Forensic Science Centre could be used to determine whether it had been used in a crime.
"We have our officers who are involved in the Special Evidence Recovery Unit (SERU), where they do the science behind firearms.
"We also have officers who are experts in ballistics and we also want to ramp up the manner in which they deal with the processing of the firearms, reaching to the Forensic Science Centre with the ballistics and then coming back to the investigators."
Of the nine police divisions in TT, Jacob said the Northern Division had the most gun seizures, with 123 guns seized for the year thus far, and the Central Division hadthe second highest.