Silent witnesses

POSTED: 04/20/16 5:19 PM

Evelien Aangeenbrug did some interesting detective work for her study Master of Criminal Investigation – and the results are an eye opener.

The researcher examined together with a detective from The Hague 48 murder cases the police initially did not manage to solve. Later detectives did crack these cases.

The research shows that the killers were rather talkative. On average they had told two people in their circle what they had done. Most of these witnesses surfaced only after the police had tracked down the killer in a different way.

Based on the research, Aangeenbrug estimates that there are more witnesses on the loose in the Netherlands with relevant and possibly crucial information about unsolved murders. There are 1,000 unsolved murders in the Netherlands and Aangeenbrug estimates that there are more than 800 people with knowledge of these crimes who have not opened their mouth yet.

Interesting: the researcher found that in 87 percent of the murder cases that were solved quickly, the killer and the victim knew each other.

In the cold cases that were eventually solved, there was only in 44 percent of them a relationship between the killer and the victim.

If in a society like the Netherlands, killers talk on average to two people about their crimes, we suspect that this number is even higher in St. Maarten.

Why? Because, unlike in the Netherlands, snitching in St. Maarten is tricky business. This is the reason why many witnesses prefer to keep their mouth shut instead of talking to the police and thereby risking the wrath of a criminal they happen to know. In such an environment, criminals find it probably easier, and relatively safe, to talk about their crimes.

Local criminals have long memories where snitching is concerned. Because it is easier to disappear in the crowd in the Netherlands than it is in St. Maarten, we figure that there is a wealth of criminal information out there. But the police will never get to hear it, because potential witnesses fear retribution – and in most cases for good reason.

Still, witnesses in St. Maarten do not have to go to the police anymore: they can call the anonymous tip line at #9300. And while this feels like a good layer of protection against the detection of snitching, it all depends much on how many people in the circle of a criminal have actually knowledge of a crime. If that circle is small enough, retribution may come knocking at a later stage after all.

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