SHTA meets with Duncan

POSTED: 02/12/13 12:06 PM

St. Maarten – Members of the Board of the St. Maarten Hospitality & Trade Association (SHTA) met last Wednesday with Justice Minister Roland Duncan to discuss the Tourism Statistical Information System (TSIS) as well as crime, the proposed Justice Park and updates on the Brooks Tower program.

The meeting was requested by the SHTA as a mean of getting firsthand information on critical issues affecting St. Maarten and was used as an opportunity to put forward concerns of its members. These concerns include the spate of violent criminal activity in 2012, poor lighting in Philipsburg and the still not ready camera surveillance system for the island.

The SHTA also questioned the process to get the TSIS system up and running, explaining to the minister how critical the data will be for the future of St. Maarten’s Tourism Product. The data according to SHTA will shed light on the areas where Tourism Destination Marketing efforts should be more heavily concentrated.

The SHTA also expressed its concern about the practicality of the Justice Park at this juncture especially considering its price tag in an economically dull market. However, the need for better detention facilities and for the separation of first time offenders and juveniles from hardened criminals, the SHTA wondered whether such a large investment was the most practical solution.

Minister Duncan said, because he had not yet presented the findings of the 2012 crime report to Parliament and the Council of Ministers he could not disclose the findings, but expressed satisfaction that there were signs of improvement in crime detection and prevention. He said that the lighting issue in Philipsburg had the Justice Ministry’s attention and that the Chief Police Commissioner had formed a committee to report on the lighting on the entire Dutch side. He said with regards to the cameras, he not only wanted to put cameras in Philipsburg but throughout St. Maarten, which would include cameras at every border point and known hot spots for criminal activities.

Minister Duncan also explained that with the TSIS system there were still some technical issues to be resolved, while the original idea showed passengers scanning the ED Cards, he felt it would be a far less complicated process if the Immigration Officers maintains the responsibility to ensure the information was accurately entered into the system.  He also expressed the hope that he would be able to install a finger print scanner at the airport for arriving passengers.

Regarding The Brooks Towers, Duncan said that there were no new applicants following the end of phase one and that some issues were being worked out with the Labor Department to ensure that the issuing of residence permits was in sync with the issuance of work permits.

About the Justice Park, Minister Duncan said the real question should be; if not now ‘when?’ He said there were several areas where the government by law had to already be in compliance with regards to detention of persons. In order for the government to do what is constitutionally required, Duncan said investments would have to be made. The existing House of Detention in Pointe Blanche, which is already 30 years old, was according to him crumbling and not large enough to house the prisoners resulting in them being spread to as far as the Simpson Bay Sub Station. He also noted that juveniles and first time offenders were not presently being separated from hardened criminals and that the combination of the various departments of the Ministry Of Justice already resulted in over six different properties being rented. He also pointed out that he made sure he came up with proposals of how it would be paid for over a time frame.

 

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