Criminologist: New age criminals a challenge for police

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

3D-printed guns and gun components found by police at a house in Caparo on August 30. – TTPS

CRIMINOLOGIST Randy Seepersad expressed a concern that the new generation of gang members and criminals have evolved to become more technologically savvy, and it is beginning to be a challenge to local law enforcement.

This comes in the wake of 3D printed guns and components found by police in a raid in Caparo, Central Trinidad on August 30.

“Gangs and criminals are becoming very technologically savvy,” he said. “You would notice it in the use of social media, spreading ‘Trinibad’ music through social media and moving into the realm of cybercrime,” Seepersad said.

“The younger generations are even more tech savvy and they can use these technology effortlessly and if you are familiar with the crime statistics, whereas a few years ago you would not have seen young people heavily represented in the more serious crimes now, that Gen Z age bracket is the highest among people committing crimes in TT.”

He said younger criminals are disenfranchised by government, desensitised to violence and, at the same time, the most technologically capable.

“And law enforcement can barely keep pace,” he said.

Seepersad said that while the 3D guns are not as rampant in TT as in other countries that does not mean the trend would not catch on. However, for the moment, illicit firearms making its way into the country from north and south America are too easily accessible for the 3D firearms to become a major trend.

“It is really in the minority,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like something that will take over the illicit gun market in TT given the availability of regular firearms.”

Seepersad said that criminals are also converting air rifles to fire smaller calibre ammunition.

“Criminals are getting very creative and that means that these weapons are becoming more difficult to If someone imports one and you pass it through a scanner you probably would not pick it up because most of it isn’t metal.”

Mark Lyndersay technology columnist for Newsday said local law enforcement tends to be behind the curve on responding to how tools get used for crime, because all police departments take time to figure out how criminals could leverage new technology.

“It took years before any kind of serious consideration was given to how drones are being used and it’s only been during last month that a hard rule on importing that technology was put in place, requiring licensing approval by a potential user before a drone can be cleared for importation,” he said.

“The proliferation of illegal firearms poses significant risks to safety and law enforcement,” Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher said at news conference on August 30.

“The lack of control in the production and distribution of these weapons could result in an increase in violent crime and contribute to the empowerment of criminal organisations.”

Harewood-Christopher promised that specialised units would continue to work to meet the emerging threat.

Up to press time there was no word on whether the two people held by police had been charged.

An ABC action news 7 report also indicated that in New York is now tackling the growing threat of 3D printed guns as the use of these types of guns are beginning to soar. The report said that there were 100 recovered in 2019, and 637 recovered in 2022.

Legislation is now being introduced to make it a class D felony to use a 3D printer to make guns or gun parts and a new class A misdemeanour to sell digital instruction to print the weapons, the news reports said.