From 7 – 10 December 2021 and 15 – 18 February in Jamaica, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), in collaboration with the Government of Jamaica hosted two Serial Number Restoration Courses.

Illicit trafficking, possession and use of firearms is a significant challenge across the Caribbean. Organized crime groups mask the origin of firearms by obliterating the serial numbers, facilitating both illegal use and armed violence. The absence of serial numbers on firearms recovered at ports of entry and crime scenes in the Caribbean hinders the ability of States to trace 100% of illicit firearms recovered, which impacts on a State’s ability to understand the illicit origins and routes the weapons take to their country.

As a result, UNLIREC developed national Serial Number Restoration courses that provide technical training to forensic firearms scientists, who are often required to restore the characters and numbers that have been obliterated. These courses are increasing States’ capacity to positively address the tracing of illicit firearms. It is a key and necessary tool to trace firearms back to their last known legal owner, either in Jamaica or in other jurisdictions, by making use of various regional and international tracing platforms. Throughout the region restoration techniques have been used to support criminal investigations, successfully trace firearms and disband trafficking networks.

In Jamaica, 6 women 7 men participated in two serial number restoration courses. Participants included ballistics experts from the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine, police officers from the Technical Services Division, Jamaica Constabulary Force and lecturers from the University of Technology. The theoretical and practical elements of the course included hands-on experience with various methodologies to recover obliterated serial numbers on firearms. During the courses, serial numbers were recovered on two dozen illicit firearms. Women in disarmament feature prominently in Jamaica where 46% of participants for the training were female, and now join 10 other women in the Caribbean trained to recover serial numbers on firearms.

The Serial Number Restoration course contributes towards the implementation of Goal 3 of the Caribbean Firearms Roadmap, ‘Bolster law enforcement capacity to combat illicit firearms and ammunition trafficking and their illicit possession and misuse, and ammunition, and ultimately reducing firearms-related crimes and armed violence in the Caribbean’. The course was made possible thanks to support of the government of the United States of America.

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.