Law Enforcement Council investigates prevention and combating of illegal firearms at request of Minister

Philipsburg, January 31, 2022 – Only with a comprehensive, integral approach, can real results be
achieved regarding the illegal firearms problem in Sint Maarten. Solely repressive action by justice
authorities, in particular the Sint Maarten Police Force (KPSM), does not offer a solution to the
current illegal firearms issue. Ministries, institutions and the community as a whole need to
structurally work together to tackle the causes and effects of illegal firearms and the related
problems. The social-economic aspects need to be taken into account as well as developing
preventive strategies with special attention for youngsters. This is stated in the latest inspection
report of the Law Enforcement Council. Based on a request of the Minister of Justice, the Council
carried out an inspection on the prevention and combating of the illegal firearms trade and illegal
firearm possession in Sint Maarten. The Council made seven recommendations on the subject.
Nature and scope
There is no precise view on the nature and scope of illegal firearms smuggling, illegal firearms trade
and illegal firearms possession in Sint Maarten, neither at the Ministry of Justice, nor at the justice
departments. The Council is of the opinion that without having a good view on the issue, optimal
guidance at a strategic level (management of the departments together with the ministry) is not
possible, a specific policy and an integral approach are only partly possible and the necessary
investments cannot be prioritized.
Legal framework and protocol
The applicable legal framework with regard to firearms in Sint Maarten is clear and is composed of
treaties and national legislation. Aside from the legal framework there is also a relevant protocol.
The legislation is outdated, but doesn’t result in bottlenecks at the various departments during the
execution of tasks. The efforts of Justice with regard to the issue is positive, even though it remains a
serious problem and incidents keep happening, the Council stated. The Protocol mutual
strengthening border protection offers opportunities for structural improvements of the judicial
departments in Sint Maarten, also where it pertains to the prevention and combating of the illegal
firearms trade. The departments involved in this collaboration are Customs, the Dutch Caribbean
Coast Guard, KPSM and the Immigration and Border Protection Service (IBP). Sint Maarten has a
number of obligations under this protocol, including the drafting of a plan of approach by all
stakeholders. This plan serves to strengthen the border with the combating of illegal firearms trade
as one of the objectives.
Judicial approach and collaboration
The Council concluded that within the investigation, high priority is given to illegal firearms by the
departments as well as the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Council is under the impression that
everyone is on the same page on this issue and that all efforts are being made with the limited

means. Here too, the Council repeats its view that by bundling forces, even more results could be
achieved. The multi-disciplinary team that carried out road controls – of which everyone agreed that
good results were achieved – is a good example to accomplish this. The Council is of the opinion that
precisely because of the general lack of capacity, there should be more collaboration and use made
of each other’s capacities and competencies. The lack of capacity makes the importance of a quality
and quantity information-driven input through investigation even greater. However, the limited
analysis capacity of the departments is impeding this. There is collaboration with the French-side
authorities, with regard to among other things, the exchange of information, the carrying out of
searches and the execution of joint controls. There is a good relation between the French and Dutch-
side authorities on the work floor, but the securing of the cooperation on a political level is difficult.
The Council believes that the Minister of Justice can act as a catalyst in this regard.
Integral approach
The Council finds the effectiveness of law enforcement to prevent and combat the illegal firearms
trade and illegal firearms possession insufficient and not in relation to the severity of the issue and
would like to see a strengthening of the effectiveness of the departments. The Council concludes
that the integral approach by the departments with regard to the topic of illegal firearms is (still)
insufficient. “Although St. Maarten continues to struggle with a lack of resources to address the
problems confronting the community, which includes the problem of illegal firearms, the hope is
that with the combined efforts of the agencies, a great deal can be achieved. All concerned are
aware of the bottlenecks and above all possess the resolve to address them. However, to realize
specific plans, they will require the requisite support in among others, the areas of policy and
finance from politics and the administration”, the Council stated.
Victim support
The Council recognizes that the impact of illegal firearms on the community is significant and that
the lack of victim support is a major shortcoming in this regard. The Council has raised the issue of
victim support in several reports. Change seems to finally be on the way with the establishment of a
foundation by the Minister of Justice to provide victim support.
Weapon policy
A restrictive weapon policy and the enforcement thereof contribute to the safekeeping of society.
Even though it is a separate subject, the Council did look at the weapon policy, because the licensed
and illegal are two sides of the same coin. Failure to properly regulate, document and monitor the
licensed side carries risks and can affect the illegal side and lead, for example, to a firearm ending up
in the illegal circuit. The Council will consider, as a result of these findings, conducting an inspection
at a later time into the broader subject of a weapon policy.