Opinion: Stiffer penalties for crimes committed against tourists?

POSTED: 09/29/11 1:51 PM

Is it a good idea to punish crimes against tourists harsher than crimes against others? Discrimination, several members of parliament said on Tuesday. Bad idea. Don’t do it.

We’re not too sure about this proposed measure either, and even though we appreciate the intention behind it, we think that the reasoning is flawed, and that it will not yield the desired result.

Think about it. What we really want is to offer tourists a pleasant experience on our island. Punishing crimes against tourists harsher than other crimes does nothing to prevent those crimes. Is there anybody out there who believes that the criminal mind works like: jeez, if I whack a tourist my punishment is going to be 25 percent higher than when I whack a local?

Most of these street punks who commit street robberies had trouble graduating from Kindergarten, so sophisticated thinking isn’t really their thing.

Rather than coming up with measures that deal with the situation after a crime has been committed, the Justice Ministry ought to focus on ways to prevent these crimes from happening. That will truly contribute to a better experience for our visitors. We doubt very much whether a tourist who is robbed of his or her possessions will get any satisfaction from the thought that the robber – if he is caught at all – will face a tougher sentence.

Hi Dad, the guy who robbed me of everything I had in St. Maarten just got a 25 percent higher prison sentence. Isn’t that great?

Honestly, we do not think that St. Maarten will earn Brownie points with this approach. There is also another downside to the proposal, one that will affect anybody who is not a tourist. The limited number of thinking criminals will quickly catch on to the idea that it is more attractive to commit crimes against indigenous St. Maarteners. That will get our friend Leopold James going for sure, and with reason as well.

Apart from this, we wonder about the definition of the term tourist in the proposal. Cruise ship arrivals are tourists, that much is clear. But what about timeshare owners? Traveling preachers or jewelry sales representatives? Journalists who come for a short while to the island for investigative reporting about the crime situation?

Are we going towards endless debates in court cases whereby the prosecution will argue for higher penalties against a defendant while defense attorneys will counter that the victim was not a tourist at all? It all seems such a waste of time and energy.

Wouldn’t it be much better to identify types of crimes and review the maximum penalties that are currently on the books? And is this really necessary?

If tourists become the victim of a crime, it is mostly robbery, and during most of these robberies the culprits use a weapon. The maximum penalty for armed robbery is currently 24 years – and mind you, this is the maximum for one armed robbery. If we are not mistaken, the law allows for adding one third of this maximum for defendants who committed multiple armed robberies. The two teenagers who were in court yesterday morning accused of no less than five armed robberies could therefore be punished with a maximum of 32 years behind bars.

With legislation like that, who needs stiffer penalties for crimes committed against tourists?

Did you like this? Share it:
Opinion: Stiffer penalties for crimes committed against tourists? by

Comments are closed.