Law enforcement authorities on St. Maarten are now even more determined to curb and eventually put a halt to the spate of armed robberies plaguing St. Maarten.

Local Chief of Police, Governor Franklyn Richards says that the public and operators of businesses have no other choice but to stay alert, at all times, in an effort to aid authorities in their ongoing efforts to apprehend robbery suspects still at large. "All of us need to stay alert and recognize that we need to do more, in order to safeguard against the innocent loss of life. Fortunately, this has not been the case with any of the armed robberies, reported thus far. But, with the use of firearms a characteristic of such crimes, something may go desperately wrong, one day, and someone could even lose his or her life", warns the Local Chief of Police.

As such, Richards is joining the police department in calling on the public to provide information of suspected armed robbers and of persons acting suspiciously around homes or business places, which could be likely targets for armed robberies.

"It is evident that the criminal element has, once again, set out to wreak havoc upon business establishments and anyone carrying larger than usual amounts of cash. We need to be aware, as a community, that certain workplaces are being targeted by robbers and it goes without saying that grocery shops, numbers booths, gasoline stations, jewelry stores, banks and financial institutions are among the targets", says Richards.

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"Armed robbers seem to have no regard whatsoever for the safety of the public and are boldly committing armed robberies against our neighborhoods and our community. The time for increased awareness, intervention and prevention skills and tactics is now", says Richards.

"With the police department still coping with a structural lack of manpower and resources, the arrest of suspects is indeed very encouraging", says Richards. "It is an indication that the police department is already doing all that is in its power, to deal with the situation", says the Local Chief of Police.

Business establishments will do well to train their employees and security staff in what to do and what not to do before, during and after an armed robbery; this includes how to safeguard customers and innocent citizens.

"While certain types of business establishments may not have been targeted for armed robbery, as yet, it’s something to think about. We all know how to keep ourselves reasonably safe, but we have to keep in mind what happens when that safety is threatened and we still have to get to the phone to call those who have the responsibility to protect us", notes Richards.

"What is important that residents of St. Maarten, do away with the notion that a business establishment and its surroundings is that secure that an armed robbery can’t (or won’t) happen there", adds the Local Chief of Police.

"Armed robbery is a grim reality and an important concern in our relatively peaceful and safe community. It’s better to prepare and not have to use the response to such incidents, than not to prepare and experience victimization on a grander scale", says Governor Richards.

"With this way of thinking, the police as well as the public could be more involved in early intervention initiatives; the community can assist in finding solutions to armed robberies and other crime incidents that would reduce actual crime numbers and help prevent crimes.

Added to this is the critical element of preventive focus. In order to create effective and lasting solutions to crime problems, preventive problem-solving strategies must be developed and used to complement the continued practice of responding to incidents after they happen" says the Local Chief of Police.

The Local Chief of Police confirmed on Wednesday that he had been in contact with the chief of the Windward Islands police force, Commissioner Richard Panneflek, regarding the present situation.

Among initiatives, some ongoing, which the police is undertaking, is the establishing of a telephone hotline, to report such crimes, and having the 911 emergency call operations manned 24 hours a day.

Additional police visibility with the presence of more police officers on the streets, intensified controls, increased cooperation with the Marechaussees and RST team as well as possible temporary police re-enforcements from Curacao, are among the initiatives as well.

The ongoing cooperation with gendarmes on the north side of the island will also be continued and intensified.

The structural enhancement of the local police force, with 10.5 million Euros, to be made available for that purpose by the kingdom government, particularly earmarked for St. Maarten, is also at this point in time, very much needed in order to take a bite out of crime. These funds are needed to make St. Maarten more secure and moreover, have its people feel safer, says Richards.