Today’s People of the Year: Our Community Police Officers

POSTED: 01/2/14 12:36 AM

St. Maarten / By Hilbert Haar – Honoring someone as out Woman or Man of the Year is always an interesting mind game. Who stood out this year in a way that contributed positively to our daily lives? There is no doubt that there are always more candidates for such a distinction and one could also argue that our choice is arbitrary – it always is, because there is no popular vote. This choice is based on gut feeling, year after year.

This time our choice fell on nine police officers – the men and women that took on the task of community police officer, or CPO. These officers have given the police force a different face; they have brought policing to the districts, where they are now familiar and trusted faces. They are there to help, to empower and of course also to control. But at the heart of the matter is the idea that a police officer you know is a police officer you trust. Building bridges between the police force and communities across the island will lead in the end to a safer St. Maarten and –due to efforts by individual CPOs – to a cleaner environment.

“The police are a reactive force. Something happens and we call the police. Community policing is pro-active: before something happens there are always warning signs,” is how dr. Hector Garcia, Director of the Miami Dade School of Justice explained the difference between traditional police work and community policing to Today in May. Garcia was visiting the Justice Ministry for a presentation about the Miami Dade School of Justice. This is where the community police officers that are now active in the field in St. Maarten underwent their training.

Garcia explained at the time that CPOs address “quality of life offenses” – and just before his presentation, this newspaper came across a fine example of what he meant by that. Two patrolling police officers addressed an apparently homeless man who was sleeping on a bench. After some friendly advice, the man got up and went on his way.

“Those occurrences have a domino effect,” Garcia said. “First there is one man sleeping, then there are three, and soon they are having a beer together. We call that the broken windows-effect. If there is one broken window in a deserted building and nobody does anything about it, soon all the windows will be broken.”

With these lessons in mind, nine CPOs went to work in St. Maarten’s districts. We’ll present them here in random order – ladies first, of course.

Major Helen Romeo is responsible for Sucker Garden, Middle region, Madame Estate, Dawn Beach, Defiance, St. James and Oyster Pond. Among her activities are cleanup of the districts, car wreck removal and the replacement of street signs. The repair of bridges in sucker Garden, and an oil spill cleanup in Organ Pipe Cactus Drive also were part of Major Romeo’s activities. She also handed out gifts to less fortunate and elderly citizens in her districts. On the control front, the major checked the documentation of all businesses.

Major Romeo also contributed to Jean Menten’s documentary about Sint Maarten on the occasion of the country’s third anniversary. It shows yet another aspect of community police work. The major appears in the documentary during a visit to Cindy’s roti place opposite El Capitan in Sucker Garden. “We have a lot of mothers with a lot of problems,” Romeo says on camera. “Sometimes they let their daughters prostitute themselves in the Seaman’s Club or El Capitan. Little girls from the age of twelve and up end up in these places. So far I have it under control; I know all the homes where it happens.”

Sergeant Arcella Leonard is the CPO for Saunders, Betty’s Estate, Mary’s Fancy, Illidge Road (Over the Pond), L.B. Scott road, Bush Road and Zagersgut. The sergeant was instrumental to car wreck removals from the Tassel Road and the Dollison Drive, for the development of a public safety flyer, the establishment of the Cul de Sac Community Council and the removal of graffiti in the neighborhoods. Like Major Romeo, she also controlled the documentation of all businesses in het area.

Sergeant Shawn Crispulo is the CPO for Cole Bay, Almond Grove and Diamond Hill. She initiated two social projects – the cleanup of Cole Bay and the removal of car wrecks, and a painting competition at three different schools in Cole Bay. She also held a CPTED information session about prevention. CPTED stands for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

Officer Rensley Henson takes care of Cay Hill, Belair, Fort Willem, The Villa and Rabbit Hill. In Jean Menten’s earlier mentioned documentary, he led the camera-team through the deprived areas that fall under his responsibility. Those images made clear that the CPO is well known among the residents. Officer Henson took on the cleanup of Cay Hill, the establishment of the Cay Hill community council and an employment and empowerment program for the youth of Cay Hill. His car wreck removal initiative in Cay Hill and Fort Willem removed 85 car wrecks from the streets. In Beaver Drive, also in Cay Hill, Officer Henson initiated an oil spill cleanup. Like his colleagues, he also controlled the documentation of businesses in his districts.

Major Felix Richards is the CPO for St. Peters, Ebenezer, Reward Hill and Weymouth Hill. He tackled the traffic congestion in St. Peters, Ebenezer and Betty’s Estate, and created a new drop- of and pick up point for schools in the area. He helped repainting the basketball courts, and gave them a facelift and proper lighting. Major Richards saw to the repair of broken pipelines and to the replacement of broken streetlights. Lastly, he also played a part in combating disorder at schools.

Major Ethelwoldus Josepha is the CO for Cupecoy, Beacon Hill, Cote d’Azur and Pointe Pirouette. He initiated two social projects: the cleanup of Cupecoy Beach, and street lighting for Jordan Road and Tigris Road. He also tackled the traffic situation with cab drivers in Beacon Hill and held a CPTED information session for members of the security group of the Lowlands.

Major Daryl Chandler is the CPO for Simpson Bay, Pelican Key, Cay Bay and Indigo Bay. He was instrumental to the cleanup of Cay Bay, including the removal of car wrecks, and the cleanup of Kimsha Beach. He also sees to intensive traffic controls and controls of nightclubs in his area and he made a CPTED assessment of his areas.

Sergeant Steven Carty is the CPO for Philipsburg, Pointe Blanche, Over the Bank, Hope Estate, Guana Bay and Pond Island. He initiated the painting of classrooms at the Oranje School, and supervised “punishment afternoons” at the Genevieve de Weever School. Major Carty also oversaw the traffic exam at the Sr. Borgia School and, like his colleagues, took care of the removal of car wrecks from his areas.

Major Carty paid a lot of attention to prevention. Intensive controls on illegal vendors on the boardwalk and in town resulted in convictions. No parking signs made the boardwalk car free and available for exercise and for parents to cycle there with their parents.

Major Carty also took measures to prevent traffic from using the alleys in Philipsburg during school hours near the St. Joseph School and in the future near the Oranje School.

Sergeant Juan Statie is the CPO for Dutch Quarter and Belvedere. His project for the districts is the Oasis Games. This is a game whereby the community comes together for fun games and for beautifying their environment with resources they find around them. The residents opted to clean and beautify the Oasis in Garden of Eden. Until this day, Sergeant Statie says, the youth is keeping the place clean. He is working on many more projects together with the Dutch Quarter Community Council.

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