November 14, 2022
It is a pleasure to be here with you this morning.
The U.S. Government is excited to join everyone to launch this important work. The Crime Gun Intelligence Unit, or CGIU, will be an integral part of the critical effort to identify and investigate firearms trafficking organizations throughout the Caribbean.
The CGIU began as a plan between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, also known as ATF, and CARICOM IMPACS to assist the Caribbean Basin in the disruption of firearms trafficking in the region. With the successful planning of the unit, other U.S. government law enforcement agencies offered their assistance in joining the fight.
Our various law enforcement agencies will provide data analysis, training, and real time intelligence to support the CGIU, while also contributing to U.S. domestic investigations to prosecute the persons responsible for trafficking firearms into the region.
Let me tell you a little bit about the various law enforcement agencies committed to this effort. To help combat the illegal export of weapons from the United States, ATF reestablished a permanent presence in Port of Spain in May. The ATF, through Resident Country Director Mike Graham, coordinates with Trinbagonian and regional authorities to stem the flow of illegal weapons.
I would also like to welcome our ATF colleagues who are here from the United States for this launch: Jason, David, and Josh, welcome.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the primary investigative service of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, also works with Trinbagonian law enforcement to address the illegal importation of firearms through legal ports of entry. Our colleagues from HSI headquarters in the United States – Regional Director Jeff Grimming and Special Agent Randal Hill – are here today to witness this launch as well. Jeff, thank you for coming. Randal, you are part of our Embassy community and we are always happy to have you in Trinidad and Tobago.
The United States Customs and Border Protection, or CBP as it is commonly known, has a long history with IMPACS through the Liaison Officer in Barbados. CBP and IMPACS work towards border security transformations to ensure a safer CARICOM region and increase the legitimate flow of people and trade between our various nations and the United States. We know that stronger enforcement at legal ports of entry is essential. I would like to recognize CBP Caribbean Attaché Jonathan Mardo for attending the opening. CBP Trinidad and Tobago Attaché Carl Jaigobind is a valued member of our embassy.
U.S. Embassy Port of Spain has committed over $10 million in security assistance programs in Trinidad and Tobago in recent years. Trinidad and Tobago has also benefitted from regional security programs developed under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, also known as CBSI.
Why are so committed to partnering with IMPACS on this unit? Because we recognize that crime and violence are major concerns for the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, and that most homicides in Trinidad and Tobago involve a firearm.
This unit, by helping to improve citizen security and remove guns from the streets, will help to meet one of the basic needs of the citizens and residents of Trinidad and Tobago: the need to feel safe.
The U.S. government will continue to provide significant technical assistance, equipment, and training to IMPACS and the TTPS and other authorities to detect and remove illegal weapons, dismantle criminal gangs, and address the root causes of violent crime.
However, assistance only goes so far. Successfully tracing and reducing the illicit flow of firearms that drive the homicide rate requires genuine partnership and collaboration between all stakeholders in this room, including government ministries and law enforcement. The success of this unit depends on your collaboration, contribution, and commitment.
The addition of Firearms Investigative Units within police forces in Trinidad and Tobago and across the Caribbean to conduct follow-up investigations into the possession and movement of firearms, as well as non-intrusive inspection equipment at ports and the tightening of border security, are all additional steps that can be taken to assist in our overall, collaborative efforts.
I would like to give special thanks to Colonel Mike Jones for his leadership. His vision and dedication to the security and safety to CARICOM citizens is paramount. The planning and formation of the CGIU is a prime example to add with many others.
In conclusion, we continue to collaborate with the TTPS on making Trinidad and Tobago a safer and more prosperous country. We do so because we are neighbors, friends, and family, and as neighbors, friends, and family we keep each other safe. As democracies, our two countries’ destinies are linked, and it is imperative that we continue to partner with each other to show that democratic systems can address the security challenges that affect our citizens.
I look forward to learning about the many success stories that I am sure will transpire from the CGIU.