Firearm Possession Among Arrestees in Trinidad and Tobago

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Reports and Publications
July 2010
William Wells, Charles M. Katz, Jeonglim Kim

Objectives To describe the sources that active offenders in Trinidad and Tobago use to obtain firearms and report their motivations for obtaining them. To estimate relationships between gang involvement, drug selling, and firearm ownership (or possession).

Setting Port of Spain (Republic of Trinidad and Tobago).

Methods A cross-sectional research design was used to collect self-report data from 421 recently booked arrestees (within 72 h of their arrest) in the Port of Spain Police District Detention Center. A survey instrument was used to collect data on firearm acquisition, drug use, gang membership and other behaviours. The sample provides insights about guns in the lives of arrestees in Trinidad and Tobago. Results 15% of respondents reported ever owning (or possessing) a firearm. Among the possessor group, 82% owned a gun primarily for defensive purposes, but approximately half reported using a gun in a crime. Nearly half of gun possessors stored their guns in outside locations. Firearm possession was greater among arrestees involved in gangs and those involved in drug selling.

Conclusions A comprehensive approach of prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies that are intended to prevent gun-related incidents should be focused on gangs, drugs, and guns. Searches for high- risk firearms should focus on public areas where gang members live and socialise. The study shows the value of collecting data from offender-based populations in the region for the purpose of directing violence-prevention strategies.