FALMOUTH, Trelawny — Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has hailed the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency's (PICA) intent to make most of its operations paperless as a move that augurs well for cauterising cross-border crime, which he described as "our biggest problem today".
He noted that the majority of criminal elements travel through the island's legal ports.
"PICA can be described as the first line of defence in keeping the island and our people safe. But transnational crime is what is giving us our biggest problem today. Some of them come through our legal ports. And while you might say you manage the legal ports well, in fact, the bulk of our criminal elements, they move through our legal ports," Dr Chang said.
"The guys who take the boats down to Colombia, yes, come through the illegal ports. But many of them fly out to make deals, and the ones who are the big guys coming in to make deals, they fly in through the airport."
The national security minister, who was speaking last week at a PICA management retreat at Royalton White Sands in Trelawny, said, "If we have adequate technology and smooth interchange of information with our partners, we can oftentimes identify them."
"Not all the time, but our systems have to be at the front of the cutting edge to be able to identify the miscreants who want to come to Jamaica and take advantage of our location," Dr Chang argued.
He outlined that Jamaica has always been a significant crossroads because of its location between two continents, North and South America, and with South America being a producer of huge amounts of cocaine, "it is one of the big problems that face the country".
"Jamaica in the middle, not only is a good trans-shipment point, it's a good brokering point for people coming to Jamaica to meet others to do business of all colour. And we are now in the business of doing a level of brokering, where Jamaicans will take huge amounts of the product from Central or South America, get here and seek to trans-ship illegally through here. So the role of border control and security is crucial. And, if we do it right, it is the most critical element, in terms of public safety and dealing with transnational criminals that come through here," he stated.
"PICA is the flagship agency in border management and citizenship and passport services. Your CEO [Andrew Wynter] informed me that you're now moving towards a paperless process for most of your activities and that is something that is good news."