Mixed reactions to spike in violent crime: “This is the tip of the iceberg”

POSTED: 08/14/15 9:35 AM


St. Maarten – In the wake of the call by the Ministry of Justice to implement extraordinary measures to curb crimes on St Maarten, a few residents offered their views on the matter.

Because of the laws in the Dutch Kingdom, only law enforcement officers are authorized to carry a firearm. Private security firms who are hired to protect some of the small and large businesses on the island are at the mercy of criminal elements and there is little they can do whenever they become the victims of circumstances.

”Honestly I thought that the police should have stepped up their patrols after all those robberies were committed,” says casino controller Anibal Gumbs. “Last week, there was an attempt and they were able to arrest one person. I am sorry for what happened to Officer Benjamin, my mother was one of the last persons he spoke with just before he was shot. My mother even saw when he was shot and she is still tramautized. But this is very bad for the island and I hope that the government decides to adopt stiffer penalties for people who are involved in such violent crimes.”

However Gumbs is of the opinion that VKS officers can make a vast difference is they are strategically positioned in the city. “With heavy police presence especially when many ships are in port, the criminals will have second thoughts about committing robberies. I think that it’s time they start using drone cameras along with mobile cameras that will be able to record on the spot.”

For Martin Wilson, the shooting of Officer Benjamin is causing him to address the manner in which some young people have decided to behave instead of doing something constructive or progressive.

“Our youth of today have no respect for their parents so they have no respect for the law. Officer Benjamin is one of the most respectable officers whose job is to serve and protect the innocent people on this island. For him to be gunned down in broad daylight is total disregard for the law, some young men have taken a decision to make this island lawless and it’s time the Ministry of Justice does something about it before it goes too far. Our economy depends on tourism and for those youths to be committing a crime when so many cruise ships are in port, they should be reprimanded in the harshest possible way.”

According to Wilson, the law system is set up in such a way that harsher penalties cannot be applied. “I think that they should start implementing laws like those in the USA, where it is harsher. Those youths know that when they get to prison here, things are very open and easy, but if the laws were different, I think they would think twice. Some of our lawyers that are hired to represent these youths should take a step back and just let the law take its course, whatever happens must go the right way. I also think that with these robberies, it’s time for the Ministry of Justice to take a closer look at the pawn shops on the island, they are the ones that are doing the buying.” In closing, Wilson also had a strong message for all law enforcement officers, ‘The criminals are not your friends, your friends are your colleagues, be aware of who your friends are.”

Fernando Clark, St Maarten’s philosopher of humor showed his more serious side when he agreed to comment on the recent shooting. “What we have to do is to analyse the situation, first of all they are targeting Front Street for a reason. They feel that it will always be a challenge getting to Front Street and the Board Walk. It is an easy getaway avenue. They also know that the police will be hesitant to return shots out of fear of endangering the lives of others. We are so busy developing the country by building bridges and buildings, but the protection and education of the youths is taking a back seat. What happened to Officer Benjamin is just the tip of the iceberg, but now we have to prevent such a thing from reoccurring of getting worse.”

Talking about additional preventative measures, Clark said that more guns is not the answer, “You  don’t just give anybody a gun, the criminals can even take it away from you and kill you, we have to get the criminals off the streets and transform criminals into positive citizens. Why would two young men hold up a jewelry store? What is it that they need? Are they frustrated in their own country? Maybe if they had a job they would not hold up a jewelry store.”

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