SHTA demands Government to bring safety back

POSTED: 11/2/12 2:21 PM

St. Maarten – In the wake of several violent armed robberies that took place in St. Maarten recently, the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA) is demanding government’s immediate attention to growing security concerns on the island.
The SHTA is demanding that government resolve the issue of who should manage street lights on St. Maarten immediately as this lack of clarity, resulting in no replacement of bulbs and maintenance of street lights puts everyone on the island at risk. There must also be emphasis on preventative policing in planning and executing patrols during the daytime and at nights in the various commercial districts, especially when businesses are closing considering many businesses close at similar times. We also recommend that businesses take extra security measures, including ensuring that the outside of their businesses are properly lit.
Though violent crimes appear to be on the rise throughout the island; especially residents and visitors to the Philipsburg area – our treasured capital and main economic center – find themselves increasingly the target of violent criminals without even the concern for human life. From the Board Walk to the Walter Nisbeth Road there are literally hundreds of businesses that make St. Maarten a prime destination for shopping and leisure activities. Too many street lights are not working in Philipsburg and police presence on Front Street, Back Street and the Board Walk is lacking especially at night, which presence is critical to the safety of our residents and visitors.
The SHTA has stated that it does not consider the cause of crime to be lack of street lights, but says that the failure to ensure adequate lighting on the island in general gives rise to criminal activity.
SHTA President Emil Lee stated: “My sympathy and best wishes go out to Joel Morand and other recent victims of violent crimes. Many businesses are already severely challenged by the combination of increasing cost of doing business; decreasing demand, heavily bureaucratic and expensive administrative processes, unleveled playing field, decreasing quality of life and now add on top of that, people need to fear for their lives. I believe that we are fast approaching a point where businesses will develop and execute exit strategies.”
While he insists that government needs to act, Lee said some businesses are already being proactive and others should follow their example and not wait for government’s action to come. He said, “We must all be proactive in developing preventative measures to protect ourselves.”
Sunny Khatnani, representing the Indian Merchants Association (IMA) on the SHTA Board of Directors stated, “The fact that there are only 58 lights on Front Street and 98 lights on Back Street, many of which do not work, the alleys connecting the main streets mostly remain in the dark without any proper lighting, is a clear indication of the lack of a proactive approach.” He said, “We need to have additional lights installed on Front Street and in all the alleys immediately and we must see increased police presence during the daytime and night especially considering that November and December are not only busy business months but criminal activity has historically increased during this period in Philipsburg.”
The SHTA demands for all defective street lights in every neighborhood to be repaired immediately and for the proper maintenance of these lights to be taken up moving forward in order to maintain safety. SHTA is also demanding police and VKS patrols to be stepped up in Philipsburg, especially on the Board Walk and Front/Back Street areas; without sacrificing the other districts.
According to SHTA, the present economic climate for local businesses to operate in is already extremely challenging. Increasing cost of doing business and government bureaucracy compound the problem, resulting in many existing businesses struggling for survival. In an increasingly competitive international marketplace, the ability of St. Maarten to successfully promote tourism and attract new investments is tantamount to its ability to guarantee personal safety and security.
It is no secret that during the months of November and December people from neighboring islands come to St. Maarten in large numbers, whereas also the number of tourists visiting the island increases as hotels, timeshare properties, villa rental companies and marinas get ready for the upcoming high season. Therefore, we must act now to ensure that visitors and residents are protected. SHTA calls for a concerted and coordinated effort towards Government, business associations, community councils and other stakeholders working together on improving the present situation while focusing on ways and means to enhance prevention first. SHTA has requested a meeting with Minister of Justice Duncan to discuss and address the present situation.
The SHTA is also requesting that government act now to seek temporary assistance from law enforcement agencies in Holland. In the past government has received assistance from Police and Marechaussee and with the urgent need to increase the presence of officers in the Philipsburg, Simpson Bay and Mullet Bay area as well to guarantee enough manpower for regular vehicular patrols in all the residential areas on the island, it is imperative that we act now. We are also aware that during this time of year the Coast Guard is confronted with increased criminal activity and as such consideration should also be given to requesting marine support for our local Coast Guard

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