Justice Minister pleads for public cooperation in crime fighting

POSTED: 03/11/11 4:53 PM

Duncan outlines short to midterm efforts

St. Maarten – Minister of Justice Roland Duncan has pressed the public to help the police solve crime, especially the murders that took place last week and told Parliament he’s ordered the force to focus heavily on repression. In turn they told him – and the government by extension – to pay more attention to preventing crime.
On the matter of whether there’s a spike he said, “The police have been very successful at catching burglars so I’m not saying there’s no crime. What we’ve seen is a certain type of crime manifested with a certain type of modus operandi.”
The exchange took place at a Central Committee meeting. The Minister told MPs that there was no need for general panic as the recent slayings were gang related. He also said police, joined by Customs, Coast Guard and the VKS were putting in their best efforts to solve the crimes. But both the Minister and Chief Public Prosecutor Mr. Hans Mos have stressed they can’t solve crime without the public’s help.
“I want to appeal to the public to use the telephone numbers that we have to give information. They can call 5813781, which is available 24 hours a day for seven days a week, or if they really want to remain anonymous people can call our tip-line 9300. The public has to understand that the police cannot magic information and so we need their assistance,” Duncan said.
Mos added, “All of our resources are being used at this moment. The police and the prosecutor’s office are working some very long hours and this is costing us a lot of effort, but as the minister said we can’t do this without the help of the public.”
From his presentation and his responses to MPs’ questions the Minister was clearly promoting the mid to long term solutions he has in the area of repression and detention. He touched on the latter considering the “success” the police have had in solving crimes, robberies in particular. That success has led to a prison that is filled to capacity and a need to build more cells.

On the matter of repression Duncan has ordered that more police be stationed in Simpson Bay once the upgrades there have been completed. He also announced that ground will be broken soon on a substation for St. Peters, L.B Scot Road and Cul de Sac. Talks are also set to begin Friday for substations to be placed in Cole Bay and Cupecoy/Low Lands area. Having these substations will allow the police to respond quicker and increase visibility of the police across the nation.
The Minister also reasserted his commitment to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s plans to place cameras in certain areas to help spot criminals in action. He also confirmed that he was looking into having retired officers work as advisors to the force and also as trainers for young officers.

MPs Suggestions
Justice Committee Chairman Patrick Illidge said the members would be looking for continuous meetings with the Minister and the judicial chain to discuss ideas on how to fight and prevent crime. The suggestions he announced last night also had a mid to long term line. They include making English the language of instruction for the police training, enforcing the law on presenting identification when requested, training officers especially immigration officers at the airport, not to be overly rough when they approach people, getting prisoners to do community work as a means of teaching them a trade and also as a means of shortening prison sentences based on good behavior and setting up a boot camp to help especially young mothers deal with the errant children.

Justice Committee Vice Chairman Johan Leonard was happy to hear that retired officers will be used to assist the force stating, “It is a difficult moment when these officers leave because that means their expertise are no longer being used. So I am glad to hear the Minister say that he will use their help and I urge him to do this as soon as possible.”

National Alliance MP George Pantophlet pressed the Minister to get the police to improve response time by implementing mobile patrols and implementing community policing. He also stressed the need for visibility and gave support to idea for placing cameras.
“I also want to stress to the Minister though that you must spend more time on prevention, instead of just repression,” Pantophlet said.
Fellow N.A. MP Louie Laveist was “happy to hear about the planned substations for St. Peters, South Reward and other areas.” He also stressed on importance of prevention and urged the government to tackle youth delinquency, re-socialization and job creation. He also stressed the importance of repression and confinement.
“We must supply our law enforcement with the tools they need to do their jobs, including manpower. We must also focus on financing and completing substations, preventing the trafficking of drugs and keeping illegal arms out of our country. We must disarm illegality,” Laveist said.

Democratic Party faction leader Roy Marlin urged the minister to launch a continuous public relations campaign that will tell the public that it is safe to call the tip line. He also wants the minister to place more focus on tackling all aspects of crime – including traffic offences and gypsies – and to place more focus on zero tolerance measures. Duncan said he’d use available funds for the P.R. campaign but said zero tolerance is difficult to sustain.

The public relations aspect was also raised by N.A. MP Frans Richardson. He wants the focus to be on informing especially potential visitors that the murders that occurred last week are not the norm. He also asked the minister what role MPs can play in giving the police the tools to do their job and how they could cooperate in the efforts to prevent crime.

United People’s (UP) Party MP Dr. Ruth Douglas pressed the Minister to work with colleague Minister Theodore Heyliger whose Ministry is responsible for street lighting to put up more lights in isolated areas so they will become less attractive to criminals.
“For example we have the Las Vegas type area at Maho, which is well lit up, and then we have the valley of the shadow of death at Mullet Bay, and then another populated area of Cupecoy. There should be more lights so these abandoned places aren’t so scary and eerie,” Douglas said.

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