Hinds: 56 guns missing between 2018 and 2023

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds. – File photo courtesy Office of the Parliament

NATIONAL Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds says a total of 56 firearms were reported lost, missing or stolen between 2018 and 2023.

These include 42 legally issued, privately owned firearms and 14 that were issued to members of the police service, Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) and Prison Service.

Hinds made these statements in response to questions from Independent Senator Dr Paul Richards in the Senate on April 29.

He was unable to indicate whether any of these firearms were subsequently used in the commital of any crimes.

On firearms legally issued to private citizens between 2018 and 2023, Hinds said three, seven, five, six, 11 and nine for 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 respectively

He added that while this officially listed the number of these firearms reported lost, stolen or missing in this period, “there is one more (firearm) to be concluded upon in respect of the year in which it was reported as such (stolen/lost/missing) from the Tunapuna Police Station.”

Richards asked Hinds if there were sufficient oversight mechanisms to ensure that firearms legally issued to ordinary citizens are not lost, stolen or go missing.

Hinds replied, “It is anticipated that he or she who is issued with a firearm will do all that is reasonably and lawfully anticipated to secure the firearm.”

He said, “When you have a firearm and in this case, in respect of this answer, 42 being lost or stolen or missing. It suggests that there ought to be significant improvement in the activity of holders to ensure that this does not arise.”

Richards asked Hinds if Commissioner of Police Erla Harewood-Christopher has the necessary resources to fully investigate these types of firearms being stolen,lost or going missing and ending up in the hands of criminals.

He said, “That is a lot of firearms going missing, given the kind of criminal activity that can be perpetrated brazenly using these firearms.”

Hinds replied, “I am confident that the CoP has the necessary resources and I am also confident that in each case, some investigations would have been executed.”

Hinds could not say whether or not any of these firearms were used to commit any crimes.

“I am unable to say so at this point but that can quite easily be ascertained and I can report to this Parliament accordingly.”

In response to a second question from Richards, Hinds said 14 firearms issued to members of the police service, TTDF and Prison Service were reported lost, stolen or missing between 2018 and 2023.

He provided a breakdown of this figure.

For the police, one, one and two firearms were reported lost, stolen or missing in 2021, 2022 and 2023 respectively, for a total of four.

For the TTDF, one, two, one, one, one, two in 2018, 2019,2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 respectively for a total of eight.

For the Prison Service, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero and two 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 respectively, respectively for a total of two.

With respect to the eight firearms reported lost, stolen or missing from the TTDF, Richards asked Hinds if he thought “there is a problem in the oversight mechanism in the TTDF related to those eight weapons having been reported missing?”

Hinds replied, “I can say that, based on information available, I would not jump to that kind of conclusion in all cases.”

In some cases, he continued, “It may be the result of inadequate management of the items.”

Hinds added, “But in some cases, certainly it had to do with exercises at sea and circumstances would have developed and it cannot be said that it was a lack of oversight in those cases.”

Richards asked if any disciplinary measures were instituted by the police, TTDF or the Prison Service with respect to firearms reported lost, stolen or missing.

Hinds replied, “I am unable to answer that question with any more detail at this time. But I am willing to make that available at the next opportunity that it is available.”

Richards said firearms issued to national security agencies have distinctive marking on them.

He asked if there was evidence of any of the 14 firearms being used in any criminal activity.

Hinds replied, “Again, I did not, by virtue of the question posed, arm myself that kind of detail but am quite willing to provide it at an appropriate time.”