From 8 to 12 November 2021, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) delivered its Interdicting Small Arms, Ammunition, Parts and Components (ISAAPC) course in virtual modality. Thirty (30) officials, including 10 women, from Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda, Antigua and Barbuda Forensic Services, Office of National Drug and Money Laundering Control Policy, Customs and Excise Division actively participated in the course.
The ISAAPC course forms part of the technical assistance provided by UNLIREC within its ‘Combat of Illicit Arms and Ammunition Trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean (Phase III)’ project. The specialized course aims to strengthen the capacities of States to combat and prevent the illicit trafficking of small arms, ammunition and explosives that is carried out through postal shipments, packages, parcels, and luggage at entry, exit, and transit points in the country.
Based on a theoretical-practical methodology, the participants received specialized training on the fundamental aspects of X-ray technology, technical specifications of small arms, their parts and components, ammunition, and explosives. The course also included an interactive session on concealment methods being employed by traffickers in the region. Furthermore, participants received practical training on an X-ray simulation program developed by the Centre for Adaptive Security Research and Applications (CASRA), thereby enhancing and developing their capacities to detect illicit trafficking through X-ray scanners.
This specialized course, developed in line with 2001 UN Porgramme of Action on Small Arms, Arms Trade Treaty and Sustainable Development Goal 16.4, contributes to regional efforts to prevent illicit trafficking of firearms and ammunition, thereby reducing firearms-related crimes and armed violence in the Caribbean.
The implementation of the ISAAPC course was made possible thanks to the financial support from the Federal Republic of Germany.
Illicit arms trafficking is one of the major threats to security worldwide. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are no exception. This is an important contributing factor in the region’s high rates of armed violence and crime.
In light of this, and as part of the technical assistance that UNLIREC offers the countries in the region, between 19th and 23rd April, it delivered the Interdicting Small Arms, Ammunition, Parts and Components Course (ISAAPC) online. The course was aimed at X-ray operators from the National Customs Service and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation in Chile.
ISAAPC’s aim is to support national efforts to combat and prevent the illicit trafficking of firearms, ammunition, parts, components, and explosives through postal shipments, parcels, and luggage.
Through a combination of theory and practice, a group of 40 operators learnt about the fundamental aspects of X-ray technology and received training in identifying firearms, parts, components, ammunition, and explosives. There was also a special session on less dangerous firearms such as compressed air guns, blank guns, and replicas, among others, which illustrated how these differ from conventional firearms. There was another session on concealment methods commonly used by trafficking networks.
The sessions were supplemented by practical training on a platform built by the Centre for Adaptive Security Research and Applications (CASRA), on which participants developed their ability to recognise this type of threat.
This specialised technical course has been designed in order for X-ray screening operators to receive crucial continuous training to optimise security at entry, exit, and transit points in the region.
The course was administered by the Arms Trade Treaty’s Voluntary Trust Fund, of which Chile is a beneficiary and UNLIREC, at the request of the Chilean government, is an implementing partner.
Aware of the problem of illicit trafficking in arms, ammunition and their parts and components by means of postal shipments, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), developed in 2016 a practical tool to improve the capacity of practitioners in relation to their interpretation of x-ray images and identification of possible concealment methods. The Course for Interdicting Small Arms in Postal Shipments (ISAPS) was born as a result of these efforts, whose second edition was held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, from 13 to 17 November with the invaluable collaboration of the Dominican Postal Institute (INPOSDOM) and the Ministry of Defense.
Thanks to the support of the Center for Adaptive Security Research and Applications (CASRA), UNLIREC designed a methodology that included training based on an electronic platform, theoretical presentations and a session on identifying concealment methods by means of an x-ray scanner. The ISAPS counted with the participation of officials responsible for the control of packages and luggage at entry and exit points from the INPOSDOM, the General Directorate of Customs, the Ministry of Defense, the Specialized Body for Port Security (CESEP), the Specialized Body in Airport Security and Civil Aviation (CESAC), the National Department of Investigations (DNI) and the National Directorate for the Control of Drugs (DNCD).
To measure the impact of this course, all 40 participants were divided into two groups that received this training in an independent and differentiated manner. The first group, called on line group, only had access to the online training platform during three days of the course. The second group, called joint group?in addition to online training?attended on-site training, received teaching materials and participated in practical exercises with techniques of identification of methods of concealment using the scanner, for another two additional days. Also, all participants performed initial and final tests, and pledged to train 12 additional hours on the online platform for the next month. When this training is finished, participants will proceed to take a final exam.
A preliminary comparative analysis of the performance of both groups in the initial and final tests?performed at the beginning and at the end of the course?shows that those participants who attended the on-site training and had access to the practical exercise were able to improve their ability to detect prohibited objects by 11% and their ability to discern a false threat by 17%. Once all the participants complete their final exam, a subsequent analysis will be carried out in order to measure the impact of the additional training through the virtual platform.
Among the reference material provided to participants, it must be highlighted as a fundamental pedagogical tool, the Arms, Ammunition, Parts and Components Identification Guide in which the operation and interpretation of images obtained by means of x-ray technology is addressed, and the main physical and material characteristics of arms, their parts and ammunition is collected in fact sheets, as well as their visualization through x-rays. The logical structure of the guide allows the user to become familiar with the physical appearance of arms, ammunition, parts and components and the equivalence with the images generated by the scanner.
UNLIREC welcomes the contribution of the Federal Republic of Germany, which made possible the development of the Arms, Ammunition, Parts and Components Identification Guide and the organization of the ISAPS.
Latin America and the Caribbean have, in general terms, experienced a dramatic increase in armed violence in recent years, driven in large part by the illicit trafficking of firearms, its parts/components, and ammunition. Public policies against illicit arms trafficking in Latin America and the Caribbean have led to an increased use of X-ray technology for the screening of postal shipments. Thus, states have called on the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) to provide specialized interdiction tools and X-ray screening training to help combat illicit arms trade by developing a Course for Interdicting Small Arms in Postal Shipments (ISA PS). The project’s main goal is to boost the capacity of Latin American and Caribbean states to reduce the distribution of illicit arms and their parts/components via postal shipments.
Crucial milestones of the project were the development of an Arms, Ammunition, Parts and Components Identification Guide in collaboration between UNLIREC and CASRA, and a pilot course and study in Costa Rica.
For more information related to this capacity building initiative, please see Newsletter Issue 16 of the Center for Adaptive Security Research and Applications (CASRA) at https://www.casra.ch/en/about-us/casra-newsletter.html