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Agricultural scientist: Use T&T hot peppers in the security industry
A leading agricultural scientist is proposing that this country’s scorching varieties of hot peppers be put to use in the security industry. Pepper sprays, he said, can be used in the quest for non-lethal solutions to violence, disturbances and crowd control.
Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Cardi) researcher, Dr Herman Adams, believes that in doing so a full, new economic sector earning foreign exchange and employing people at all levels of crop cultivation and production can be launched.
Adams is of the view that “big opportunities” are being ignored. “We should be industrialising the hottest of our peppers…and churn out industrial products like pepper sprays,” he told T&T Guardian.
Varities of T&T pepper
The Trinidad Scorpion Butch T is recognised as the hottest pepper on the planet and weighs in at 1,463,700 Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). The pepper spray industry usually has to bump the potency of the essential ingredient, capsaicin, up to between 500,000 and 5,000,000 SHUs. If the Scorpion or another potent crop such as the 7 Pod, Moruga Blend or Dougla is used, manufacturers would require lower concentrations and save money on raw inputs.
We can beat Asia, Latin America
The varieties used by pepper spray and pepper spray grenades come largely from sources in Asia and Latin America. “We can beat them hands-down when it comes to competitiveness,” Adams said. There are major pepper spray manufacturers in the United States and China and there has been talk of the greater use of pepper spray grenades in military combat situations.
Security expert, Dwight Williams, CEO at Heller Security Services says moving to the use of such non-lethal forms of weaponry locally has the potential to enhance the work of the police service and the security industry. “It is clearly a milder form of force that can be very effective in mitigating what can become very serious situations,” Williams, a former soldier in the Jamaican army said.
“In the army we learn about the four “Bs”—boots, (gun) butts, bayonets and bullets, with bullets being the last resort,” he said. He, however, added that the use of non-lethal weapons would play a role in ensuring that bullets would not be an immediate option as currently appears to be the case. “If these (non-lethal weapons) were around, there would have definitely been a decrease in police killings,” he added.
Like several other countries, the use of pepper spray in this country is controlled under firearms legislation. T&T’s Firearms Act refers to “weapons of whatever description or design … adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid, gas or other thing.”
There has been talk of encouraging the use of such weapons by the police service and reference was made to civilian use at the height of the 2011 State of Emergency following rumours of an increase in the incidence of rape. But the police service does not appear to be generally interested. Williams laments the lack of action in this area. “What we are seeing is the overuse of force,” he said.
Security colleagues share other views
But, some of his industry colleagues disagree. Celestine Lewis, a former police officer who currently works with Security Escort Services, said the current situation calls for deadly force to be met with deadly force. “Of course we would rather take the lighter approach rather than use firearms,” Lewis said, “but with the mind-set of the criminals you have to fight fire with fire.”
The view is shared by retired Deputy Police Commissioner Winston Cooper who says pepper spray and tasers eventually prove to be quite ineffective in scenarios such as violent riots. “When crowds are raging, they are raging,” he said. He is also of the view that the scale and intensity of violence in the society requires a heavier hand and much stronger enforcement.
The legal use of pepper spray varies widely worldwide. In most states in the United States both civilians and security personnel are entitled to use the weapon with and without a licence, depending on the jurisdiction. However, in the United Kingdom and many other countries, its possession and use are covered under firearms regulations.
According to Adams, there is likely to be increased demand for such devices especially since countries are more and more interested in employing non-lethal force to deal with crime and even in engaging military conflict. “Such products can be used in war without killing people,” he said. In India, the “chilli grenade” has been approved for military use against criminal suspects, including terrorists.
For the moment, the region’s focus is on producing hot pepper varieties as a food product—a much less contentious but, according to Adams, under-exploited enterprise.
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