On 15 March 2021 and then from 16 – 19 March 2021, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), in collaboration with the Governments of the United Kingdom and Trinidad and Tobago, hosted an online National Firearms Tracing Workshop followed by in person Serial Number Restoration Course.

In the Caribbean, several factors hinder the ability of States to trace 100% of illicit firearms recovered. The age of the firearm, ineffective procedures and absence of serial numbers on firearms are three such factors. Obliterating serial numbers on firearms is a common practice for criminals to mask their origin and facilitate trafficking and illegal use. The national workshop on tracing and serial number restoration were developed in an effort to support States’ efforts to trace firearms and to address the fact that the forensic firearms scientist is often required to restore the characters and numbers that have been removed from firearms in a variety of ways.

Fifty-three firearm examiners, firearm technicians, police officers and scientific officers from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service, Forensic Science Centre, Strategic Services Agency and Ministry of National Security took part in the National Tracing workshop. Participants included operational police officers and analysts responsible for recovering illicit firearms, retrieving trace evidence, analysing firearm crime data, tracing firearms and collating information on criminal groups. Twelve Police Officers took part in the Serial Number Restoration course which consisted of hands-on use of Magnaflux and Chemical Etching Methods to recover obliterated serial numbers from firearms.

Serial restoration has proven to be a key and necessary tool to conduct tracing and make use of the various regional and international tracing platforms. Throughout the region, restoration techniques have been used to support criminal investigations and successfully trace weapons and even disband trafficking networks.

This course complemented recent initiatives undertaken by Trinidad and Tobago including its adoption of the Caribbean Firearms Roadmap. The activities were made possible thanks to support of the government of the United Kingdom and included experts from the UK’s National Ballistics Intelligence Service, the US Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives and the International Police Organization (INTERPOL).

UNLIREC, as the regional organ of the UN Office for Disarmament, seeks to advance the cause of practical disarmament in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of its commitment to support Member States in their implementation of international disarmament and non-proliferation instruments, in particular, the 2001 UN Programme of Action on Small Arms.