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Law enforcers in Trinidad and Tobago are disturbed – not just about the country’s spiraling murder rate but the increasing number of illegal weapons on the street.
And according to the country’s top cop, the twin-island republic has the highest number of firearms on the street in the region, with 80 per cent of homicides recorded involving guns.
Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams earlier this week told the Joint Select Committee, which analyzed the procurement, registration and retrieval of firearms, that 765 guns were removed from the streets last year, compared to the 691 seized in 2015 and 585 a year earlier.
And he warned that this was just a tip of the iceberg.
“What we are seeing is a consistency of an increase and a substantial increase. As we seize more, there is an indication that there is even more,” the top cop cautioned.
Chairman of the Joint Select Committee Fitzgerald Hinds expressed alarm that there appeared to be “thousands and thousands and thousands of guns out there, based on the number of shootings”.
He went further to talk about sophistication of the weapons, citing the high number of air rifles in the country, which Commissioner Williams admitted were “just as deadly as pistols”.
Williams said air rifles were fast becoming a major threat, lamenting that owners only needed a certificate of character and an application.
“There are numerous shops selling air rifles and you would be shocked by the level of sophistication of those air rifles,” he cautioned, urging authorities to review the legislation.
Despite that problem, the crime chief served notice that he was not sold on the idea of a gun amnesty.
“What we require is the stoppage of the flow of firearms. The Police Service has actually gotten to a record high each year in seizing firearms,” he said.