Customs officials on Thursday promised more raids in coming days, seeking to halt the export of stolen goods after seizing two containers Wednesday in a joint operation by police and Freight Security Initiative agents.
The raids, in the Greenwood Drive area of Swamp, were part of an ongoing probe into the export of goods recently stolen in a series of burglaries and other thefts.
“In the past several weeks, customs agents and police have been looking at several locations around the island used by individuals to load containers for export,” said Jeff Jackson, assistant collector of customs.
He said law enforcement authorities are seeking “stolen goods from burglaries and thefts being shipped out of the country, going to various places, mainly Jamaica and Honduras.”
He declined to detail Wednesday’s raids, but said police would compare lists of goods reported stolen and the shipping manifests from the Greenwood Drive containers, looking for similarities.
“It’s a meticulous and time-consuming process that will take a couple of days to complete,” he said.
He expanded on initial reports that the stolen goods comprised mostly furniture, saying the exports “covered all sorts of items,” including, for example, metal objects – cables, wires, air conditioners, tools and small machinery – robbed from construction sites. Most shipping agents and companies, Mr.Jackson said, are perfectly legitimate, but anyone could rent a container or offer to share its space with anyone else. Customs is looking “at about a dozen people, all over the island,” involved in the business. While unable to put a value on the thefts and overseas re-sales, Mr. Jackson said the trade “appears to be very lucrative” and had been going on for years.
Among other reports of recent burglaries, Chief Inspector Raymond Christian pointed to three break-ins at commercial premises in the previous 48 hours, and said records indicate this time of year often brings an increase in thefts.
The robberies and subsequent export of stolen goods are “something we’ve been hearing about for years,” he said. It is no coincidence that “a lot of items that have been recovered have turned up in other jurisdictions.”
The law, while requiring shipping agents to declare the content of any container, creating a manifest, does not require any statement regarding the origin of the goods. “After a container is filled and ready for shipping,” Mr. Christian said, “the agent must describe what is inside the container. Otherwise you could put anything, even a bomb, in there.
“A declaration should be universal and must declare what is being shipped and its value.” Any agent, he points out, is “not going to punish his customers” by insisting they reveal the origins of their goods. Mr. Jackson said the recent raids had been designed after careful preparation and the partnership of police and customs.
“We have had success in the past,” he said of the teamwork, and hope for more in the future.