Looking Ahead– the Caribbean Security Landscape

January 14th, 2024

By Kieran Andrew Khan

Lt. Col. Michael Jones, Executive Director, CARICOM (IMPACS)

Lt. Col. Michael Jones
Executive Director
CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS)

The Caribbean is a unique geographic grouping of oceanic states. While striving to improve trade and alliances amongst the islands, criminal elements are also doing the same. CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) Executive Director, Lt. Col. Michael Jones, shares his insights on regional security matters.

What are the top security trends in the region?

At the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) meeting held in July 2023, the four priority areas identified for the security sector were firearms, cybersecurity, maritime security and illicit trafficking, in persons in particular.

How do these priority areas affect businesses’ safety and security?

With respect to firearms-related and firearm-enabled crime, these impact citizen security, business confidence and even the availability of labour. Then you have the effect of security costs and businesses being forced to close early, which increases the price of goods and services. We all pay for insecurity. 

Regarding maritime security, Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) has issues with illicit extracts from the marine environment. Using our maritime domain awareness platform, we have identified vessels engaging in IUU (Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported) fishing. In one example, there was a single fishing vessel hauling up to 240 tonnes of tuna out of T&T waters. That was a major loss for this exclusive economic zone – from one vessel!

In terms of trafficking, the region experiences trafficking in persons, guns, narcotics and more. There are a couple of countries in the region that are on the Tier 2 and Tier 3 Watchlist on the recently published US Trafficking in Persons Report, which is not a good thing. Then, you have the issue of ‘the dark web’ and cybersecurity, which connects everything from the trade in guns to drugs and people.

What has been the region’s response? 

The Heads of Government of Caricom signed off on the Cybersecurity Action Plan in 2016, which we will revisit due to emerging cybersecurity issues. One of the primary challenges is to take the profit out of crime, and one of the best ways we can do this is by investing in more robust cybersecurity. 

How can companies improve their security in relation to these challenges? 

Technology is a force multiplier. Technological solutions are key in mitigating and managing today’s challenging security landscape. 

What does the next 3-5 years look like in terms of threat analysis and response from IMPACS?

We are looking at a regional forensics centre in Saint Lucia, while Trinidad currently assists Guyana and Suriname regarding firearms. On the cybersecurity side, we would like companies to report cybersecurity incursions. We understand the need to keep company information private. However, we would like to see this as a compulsory legislative requirement to assist in combatting the scourge of crime.