Opinion: The future of policing

POSTED: 12/11/13 6:27 PM

At the end of November, Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson gave a state of affairs report to the parliament in connection with crime and the challenges faced by our law enforcement agencies.  Due to budget constraints, the minister stated that there will be a serious push for the improvement of quality in detection and prevention as well as the introduction of supporting technology to minimize and compensate the need for quantity.

Based on this we need to look at what the future of crime fighting for country Sint Maarten’s police force and other law enforcement agencies could entail. The minister is looking at what I consider as the SMART-policing approach.  As a Caribbean nation with limited resources, thinking outside the box is the only viable way to maintain our long-term country’s sustainable socio-economic development, and security.

In the past we had a police helicopter under the former Netherlands Antilles police force. Today, our law enforcement agencies are aided by a Coast Guard helicopter which will be on-island for a limited period of time on a rotational basis.  Tomorrow, the future of policing could be an unmanned/unarmed aerial surveillance aircraft vehicle (UAV), an advanced technological tool, popularly referred to as a drone.

Drone technology would have several applications for our law enforcement agencies: land surveillance (locating drug fields; police surveillance; traffic surveillance); coastal border/waters surveillance in connection with drug trafficking, human smuggling and illegal fishing; and fire service (bush fires).

This is an opportunity for local job creation for young people who have an avid interest in aviation or law enforcement.

In continuing to look outside of the box, a Sint Maarten UAV unit could offer services to our neighboring islands such as Saba, Statia, St. Martin, St. Barths, Anguilla and possibly St. Kitts & Nevis; Sint Maarten could become a hub for UAV crime fighting surveillance in the North Eastern Caribbean; this would help to cover operational costs of the UAV-unit.  Discussions could be held with the French authorities and the Collectivité of St. Martin to use the airport on the north side of the island for a North Eastern Caribbean UAV crime fighting base since there is less aircraft traffic operating from the airport.

Another SMART-policing intervention would be social media.  There is evidence from around the world that social networking is the medium in which the community of today, and future generations want to be engaged.

It has been said, successful law enforcement agencies will be those that adapt and change rapidly, by embracing technology and analyze emerging trends in their communities based on today’s trends and tomorrow’s challenges.

The future and sustainability of public policing is a conversation that police forces around the world are having. The question is not whether change is coming, but what it will look like, and who will be involved and who will drive the process.

Roddy Heyliger


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