Monday, July 15, 2024

Over 900 illegal firearms destroyed by law enforcement officers

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A record number of firearms were destroyed on Friday, January 19th, at the Police Training Academy in Belmopan City. The 900-plus illegal weapons were seized from across the country throughout the past years. The Firearm Destruction Initiative is a collaborative project between Belize’s law enforcement agents, the Caribbean Community Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (CARICOM IMPACS), the Mine Advisory Group (MAG), and the British High Commission.
The destruction of the illegal firearms also served as training for 23 members of the Belize Police Department, the Belize Defence Force, and the Belize Coast Guard, who recently graduated from Weapons and Ammunition Management Training. MAG and CARICOM IMPACS carried out the training to reduce gun violence, making Belize a safer country. MAG is a non-governmental organization that assists people affected by landmines, unexploded ordnance, and small arms and light weapons.
The weapons were deemed unsafe and unusable, and their destruction is a countermeasure to prevent them from falling into criminal hands. “So what we are doing here in Belize is destroying weapons from the police, from the defence force, from the coast guard, and from the customs that are either obsolete or unserviceable, meaning they cannot be serviced or they have been confiscated for instance from a crime scene and we are working with these different groups to have them destroyed. The reason for that is that we are trying to avoid these weapons being diverted or moved from secure state stores toward criminal networks and gangs. In other words, we are contributing towards reducing armed violence by ensuring that these obsolete weapons that are no longer serviceable are destroyed,” explained Nikita Mohammed, MAG’s Regional Program Manager.
Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries Kareem Musa spoke on the destruction of firearms and its importance. “The destruction of some 923 very deadly weapons that we certainly would not want to get out into the hands of the wrong people, and so this is a crucial exercise, and again, as a result of this great partnership that we have with these agencies,” said Musa.
While destroying these weapons is a step in the right direction in the fight against crime, Musa says there is still much more to do. “There are thousands of firearms that enter our country illegally, whether it is through our ports or our very porous and illegal border crossings. Most of the time, the origin is the United States, and they make their way down through Mexico and Guatemala. Each year, hundreds of them are recovered off the streets by our police department, and so it’s a constant action that needs to be taken against illicit firearms.”
Deputy Commissioner of the Belize Police Department, Bart Jones, says the destruction of weapons is a critical exercise. “The idea is to properly destroy them so that there is no way that they could be reassembled, and no part could be used. These exercises need to be done under expert supervision, and the guys who were on the training last week are learning so that they will know how to do it properly on the next occasion. But I assure you that it is being done so that none of the parts are usable. So no spring, barrel, or nothing can be used again,” said Jones.
According to Callixtus Joseph, Regional Crime and Security Strategy Coordinator at CARICOM IMPACS, this exercise was done in Belize and across the Caribbean. “This program is not only about destroying weapons. We assess the country to see what it needs to fight crime. After the assessment in the country, we provide critically important training and assist the country in building the storage for weapons. So, regarding where weapons are stored, we ensure that those places are secure for weapons, have the right level of accountability, and have the right level of protocol,” explained Joseph. He further stated that through this program, they aim to equip Belize with the necessary training and equipment needed to carry out illegal weapon collection, storage, and destruction without the need for foreign assistance.
In the coming weeks, law enforcement agents will destroy hundreds more illegal weapons.

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