In a dramatic and symbol gesture, police in Jamaica have melted down more than 2,000 illegal handguns seized as part of crackdown against violent crime and drug trafficking.
According to reports, the weapons were tied into bundles, transported to a factory in the capital of Kingston and destroyed in a huge furnace. The ritual was observed by police, government members as well as officials from the United Nations.
Reportedly, some of the weapons were old police and military issues -- destroyed so that they would not fall into the possession of criminals.
Jamaica’s National Security Minister Peter Bunting said the government is committed to reducing the number of illegal guns on the island.
The removal will help to reduce the risks of these weapons being possibly diverted back into the illicit trade, he told reporters at the Jamaica Constabulary Force armory.
We can't let up in our efforts to combat crime, Bunting added.
William Godnick, a coordinator with the U.N. Regional Center for Peace Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, said this is the beginning of a long process in which we hope to destroy a much larger quantity [of guns].
While the murder and crime rate on the island nation is gradually declining, Jamaica is still plagued by one of the highest rates of gun violence in the world. Armed gangs control entire parts of cities and grow wealthy through the illegal drugs trade. Criminals reportedly have weaponry equal to that of the police.
However, some police have also been ensnared in the web of drug-related violence and corruption.
Associated Press reported that last year a former Jamaican police sergeant received a 15-year prison sentence for stealing guns and bullets from the Kingston police armory. He had acquired 18 high-powered weapons and 11,000 rounds of ammunition that he planned to sell to criminals
Most of the illegal guns in Jamaica are believed to be smuggled from the U.S.
The World Bank reported that criminal violence costs Jamaica’s economy about $400 million annually.