Published On: Sun, May 21st, 2023

Law enforcement requires substantial investments

PHILIPSBURG — The Law enforcement Council made fifty recommendations in 2022 to improve the situation at the police force in St. Maarten. Eleven of them have so far been ignored, and five have been partially implemented.

“Basic concerns are not being met,” the Council states in its State of Law Enforcement 2022 report. “There are bottlenecks in the areas of updating the legal framework, regulating legal status, earmarking sufficient funds in budgets and a financial mandate for the head of the service.”

Of the 25 recommendations related to the investigative process, the police force followed up on sixteen of them. Seven of the eight recommendations for combating armed robberies were also implemented, as were four out of seven recommendations for criminal seizures. The police force implemented seven out of ten recommendations for forensic investigations.

The Crime Fund is another matter altogether. Four of the five recommendations the Council made five years ago, in 2018, are still waiting for follow up. “The state of affairs remains unchanged. Prioritization and continued attention for follow up of recommendations might not be maintained,” the Council observes.

The report mentions eight bottlenecks that haunted justice organizations in 2022: capacity (financial, personnel, material); victim support services; execution of judgments (Pointe Blanche); formalization function book; criminal behavior of juveniles; placement in an institution for juveniles’ measure; and a digital registration system.

In a press release the Council warns that “strengthening the rule of law requires, among other things, strengthening the criminal enforcement of the rule of law. This can only be achieved with the necessary attention and investment.”

The Council points out that the pressure on judicial organizations is increasing “due to the partial or total lack of essential preconditions such as financial, personnel and material capacity required for the execution of tasks.”

The release furthermore states that the lack of necessary investments hinders the professionalization of various organizations. “If St. Maarten wishes to have a professional judicial chain and thus law enforcement that can combat crime together with other relevant partners, substantial investments must be made. If this does not happen, it will be at the expense of the effectiveness of law enforcement and with that the security of St. Maarten will be compromised.”

Capacity shortage, a familiar issue, emerges across the entire judicial chain,” the release states, adding that this refers in particular to cell shortage at the Pointe Blanche prison, which forces law enforcement to make difficult choices. The structure and organization of public finances is another issue.

One department stands out in the press release: the National Detectives. It experiences “almost only serious bottlenecks.” Next to that, the report mentions problematic situations at the prison and the Miss Lalie Center (for the rehab of juveniles).

Lastly, the Council notes that government-investments in local organizations have been lagging behind for years. These investments are a precondition for carrying out tasks.

There is one positive issue: “The good development of increasingly intensive cooperation at all levels.” The council points out the importance of good registration, reliable figures and thorough (scientific) research.