INTERIM executive director of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) Francis Forbes has described as "disturbing" the illicit trafficking of small arms and the growth of gangs in the region.
"Our borders are targets for drug traffickers, people trafficking and, most disturbing, illicit trafficking in small arms and ammunition. Our homicide rates are notorious and often defy logic except when placed alongside the high number of illegal guns present in member states," said Forbes.
He was speaking yesterday at the launch of the US Assistance to Combat Arms Trafficking in the Caribbean, held at IMPACS headquarters in Port of Spain.
Forbes said it was "disappointing" that the region continued to be among the top three globally for high incidence of homicides.
"Even more disturbing, however, are recent trends indicating significant growth in gang formation," he added.
He noted that illicit trafficking remained a threat to the region and regional border security was a "much sought after but very elusive target".
He pointed out that the issue must be approached collectively to achieve the desired result.
Forbes reported that recently "unusual high calibre weapons" had been turning up in Guyana, believed to have originated in Venezuela.
He said that regional investment in IMPACS had been paying "great dividends" and a regional crime strategy had been developed for the first time.
Liliana Ayalde, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the US Department of State, reported that the US Department of State had provided US$1 million to the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) to assist 14 Caribbean States in the development of national action plans on "stockpile management and firearms destruction", provide specialised training for law enforcement officials, recommendations on legal reforms, and updates to national firearms acts.
She reported that the partnership with UNLIREC and nine Caribbean nations had enhanced security in 99 stockpile facilities, destroyed 6,526 firearms and more than 6.75 tonnes of ammunition and trained a number of Caribbean officials in international standards for weapons and ammunition destruction.