The sluggishness of the reconstruction after Hurricane Irma and the general lack of financial resources, human capacity, administrative continuity, and decision-making further hampered the execution of tasks by judicial organizations in 2019. Scarcity dominates law enforcement in Sint Maarten, is the conclusion of the Law Enforcement Council (hereinafter: the Council) in its ‘State of Law Enforcement 2019’ (hereinafter: State).
Since 2014, the Council has been reporting on the state of law enforcement on a yearly basis. The State provides a more general overview of the developments within law enforcement and provides findings that transcend individual inspections. The State is presented directly to the Minister of Justice and directly to Parliament. The State is of a retrospective nature and covers the year 2019.
Overview of 2019
In 2019 the Council’s inspections concerned current themes with a major social impact. The Council inspected the following topics: the approach to human trafficking and human smuggling, drug crimes and drug-related issues, and domestic violence. In addition, the Council carried out review inspections of the detention system and victim support in Sint Maarten, the prostitution policy (an integral part of the human trafficking report), the admission and expulsion of foreigners, the use of violence by and against the police, the investigation and prosecution policy of the Public Prosecutor and criminal seizure.
The social problems that Sint Maarten is facing became visible during the thematic studies. Poverty, unemployment, school drop-out, psychosocial problems caused by (youth) trauma, abuse or domestic violence, inadequate supervision, insufficient awareness, knowledge and social control and (therefore) a limited social safety net, were found to be both cause and effect of various forms of crime. A common thread in almost all these inspections is that solely a criminal justice approach is not the solution.
The complexity of causes and consequences associated with serious social problems and forms of crime requires a multidisciplinary, integral approach. However, this is difficult to get off the ground in Sint Maarten. There is a lack of interministerial vision and comprehensive, consistent policy, which leaves the approach to various problems and forms of crime uncoordinated. The lack of stability and continuity of the government of Sint Maarten plays a negative role in this.
In addition, the inspections showed that the organizations inside and outside the judicial chain are faced with limited capacity and (financial) resources. Essential components for effective law enforcement are completely lacking or are of insufficient quality. This is not the first time that the Council has concluded this. In previous inspections and States, the Council has repeatedly emphasized this. In 2019, the Council, therefore, once again sounded the alarm with regards to the lack of victim support and the poor state of the Pointe Blanche prison and remand center. The effects of the lack of improvements not only impacts the development of the organizations and judicial cooperation but also has an impact on the process and outcome of individual criminal cases and the protection of society as a whole. The Council is deeply concerned about this.
Nevertheless, the employees of the judicial organizations remain committed to the execution of their tasks and this also resulted in positive developments being initiated in 2019.
In 2019, several judicial organizations took steps in the area of digitization and the accessibility of (information about) law enforcement. In addition, various conferences and trainings have been organized, such as those aimed at reducing domestic violence and school fights. The Council welcomes these initiatives. The Council also welcomes the various (renewed) treaties, protocols, and cooperation agreements in 2019. This is important for the information position and internal security and contributes to international responsibility in the fight against border-crossing crime.
As mentioned in a previous press release, the Council is cognizant of the difficult times Sint Maarten is currently facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the strain that this causes on the various (judicial) organizations. Nevertheless, the Council hopes to continue to count on the commitment of the relevant law enforcement professionals and looks forward to future results.
The Council has also made available an infographic on the State of Law Enforcement 2019 of Sint Maarten. All publications by the Council can be found on the website www.raadrechtshandhaving.com or http://rrh-sxm.org.