Opinion: A crime against us all

POSTED: 06/6/12 11:52 AM

A crime against a tourist is a crime against us all. That sentiment lives strongly, and justly, in St. Maarten where crimes against tourists await a potentially 25 percent higher punishment. It also lives strongly in Curacao, where the government finally has found a topic that does not include a public attack on institutions like the Central Bank or the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
This story starts when economic development minister Abdul Nasser el Hakim is in New York where he is kept abreast of the news at home; this is how he hears about a robbery at a jewelry store in the renaissance Mall in Willemstad. And now El Hakim wants to set up a tourism police force.
We wonder what Elmer Wilsoe has to say about this. After all, he is the Justice Minister in the Schotte cabinet, but this does not seem to bother El Hakim. He says that criminal activities that damage the tourism sector are unacceptable, and he wants to do something about it. How would our Justice Minister Roland Duncan react if economic Affairs and Tourism Minister Romeo Pantophlet returned from his investment breakfast in New York City with such ideas?
El Hakim did not only say that he wants to establish a tourism police, he also took action: he met with Peter Tarlow whom the Amigoe newspaper deftly described as “an international security expert.”
There is more to Tarlow though: he was ordained as a reform rabbi at Hebrew union college in 1974. For three years he served as a rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Massachusetts. The 66-year old Tarlow is, according to Wikipedia, a scholar in the area of tourism safety and a consultant for the tourism industry. He has a Ph.D. in sociology and works as the executive director of Texas A&M Hillel, a part of the largest Jewish campus organization in the world. Next to that Tarlow “teaches tourism safety to police chiefs around the world,” the online encyclopedia states.
An interesting man, for sure, and he has now apparently embraced Curacao’s minister for economic development El Hakim to teach him a thing or two about tourism safety.
Hakim’s tourism police force must become a specialized organization tasked with evaluating the tourism sector and with formulating structures and proposals that meet safety standards. The ultimate target is to improve safety and security in areas frequented by tourists and to promote cooperation in the field of security.
Lofty initiatives like these could linger for years in the bureaucratic corridors of the island government without producing any practical results. On top, El Hakim could very well be heading for a dog fight with Justice Minister Wilsoe who must wonder what his fellow-cabinet member is doing on his turf. But even if that hurdle is somehow removed, El Hakim still has to deal with a lot of practicalities.
Announcing the establishment of a tourism police force alone sounds very much like a promise, not only to Curacao’s visitors (we will protect you), but also to local entrepreneurs who are at times caught at the crossroads between crime, business and tourism.
All this brings to mind the infamous security camera project in St. Maarten – also a promise to provide more security and to increase the chances of nabbing the bad guys. The Chamber of Commerce has spent tons of money on a study into the matter; the ideas that were put on the table are not bad at all. The only thing is that until this day they have remained just that: plans. There is no action, and there is no perspective that there will be some tangible results – now or in the foreseeable future.
El Hakim’s initiative also seems to lead to a fragmentation of resources. Would the island not be better off if the government invested more in its police force rather than setting up a new organization that is going to be expensive and – worse even – inexperienced?
On the upside El Hakim’s initiative has once more put the spotlight on safety for Curacao’s visitors – and by extension on the safety of St. Maarten’s visitors. That won’t hurt, but as long as there are only words and no actions, nothing will change.

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