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PHILIPSBURG–The Prosecutor’s Office will have to re-invent itself to make progress beyond its classic “vertical” role of the magistrate who steers criminal investigations and decides about prosecution in a case-oriented manner. A new “horizontal” role has to be developed aiming at the realisation of broad, sustainable objectives.
In this new role, the Prosecutor wants to be an accessible safety partner who, as an equal party, strives after the consultation and cooperation with relevant parties in society to arrive at joint strategies for intervention and crime prevention.
Prosecutors of Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba gave a joint perspective on crime-fighting 2016-2021 last week in a lengthy report. In this report, the Prosecutor’s Offices present their views on law enforcement in the years ahead and the way they want to implement those views.
It is the Prosecutors’ ambition to deliver an effective contribution to a safe and righteous society, and to offer solid safeguards for an incorruptible democratic constitutional state. In spite of all efforts made during the past years, they have not yet led to the desired results.
That is the inconvenient reality that must be faced, the Prosecutors write in their report. The Offices are committed to effectuate a permanent change and the practical question is how. The Offices’ strategy is based on three pillars: further development of an integral approach, Improvement of the connection and communication with the society, and further development of a professional organisation within the Offices.
The current size and structure of the criminal investigation services are inadequate to cope with the crime rate. This leads to criminals being insufficiently deterred and unhindered in having their way, because they do not feel justice breathing down their necks.
However, it is an unavoidable fact that the available means for criminal investigation and prosecution are scarce. The economic realities in the countries will not bring about a significant change in this respect.
Therefore, the starting point should be that more must be done with the same (material and personnel) means. Hence a strategy should be developed that structurally enlarges the clout of the law enforcement approach on a wide scale, in terms of both repression and prevention.
Criminal justice interventions have a broader social effect when they do not take place in isolation, but as part of a broad joint strategy from the safety network. This so-called integral approach implies that organisations with different disciplines define common targets and ambitions, mutually cooperating in achieving those.
More specifically, it means utilising each others’ expertise, capacity and/or competence, and sharing information. Depending on the problem, the network that is able to undertake actions gets itself organised and accordingly the most effective and promising strategies for intervention and prevention are established.
This way an integral approach constitutes a combination of capacity, quality, diversity and the involvement of strategies that are different from solely criminal investigation and prosecution.
The safety network not only contains criminal justice partners, but also the (public) administration, the various legal enforcement services and all potential relevant (semi-)public and private parties in society. It is exactly that public-private cooperation and the participation by unconventional partners that makes the integral approach powerful. This requires commitment by all partners involved and a strong connection with the society. Based on the conviction that law enforcement cannot succeed by sheer criminal intervention alone, more will be invested in alternative network interventions and there will be a permanent search for new suitable partners.
The key to a successful integral approach is an optimal involvement and use of the partners’ capacity, expertise, competence and information. Good cooperation and mutual rapport are prerequisites. The integral approach requires commitment to the targets and aspirations, efforts, energy, frankness and flexibility from all partners involved.
Corruption experts insist on the strategic role of the press and the civil society in this cultural change. It is crucially important that a collective awareness and a public opinion arise leading to an active involvement of citizens, enterprises, social institutions and the media.
This way, society will be able to develop itself into an essential partner in the shift to a culture of legality and justice in which lack of interest resignation, and cynicism amongst the population (“looking away,” judging crime as “normal,” “disbelief” in law enforcement) are pushed back, where criminal behaviour is collectively disapproved of, and ethics together with other shared values come into existence.
Next to criminal justice interventions, the above also offers an alternative path to push back crime and to hit the undermining “big fish” in their social base, which is still broad today. Law enforcement services cannot do this on their own.
The Report says that if society does not take up its responsibility and does not oppose lawlessness and corruption, criminal justice interventions have only a temporary effect and new players will appear on stage after some time. It is exactly this cooperating pincer movement, from law enforcement on one hand and increasing the pressure bottom-up from society on the other, that offers the best guarantee for lasting results.
This change is impossible without a widespread acceptance of the Prosecutor’s Office and the various law enforcement services, and of the way they act. Such acceptance includes confidence in their integrity and expertise, and an understanding of the choices made and the priorities that have been set.
The society with its various sections of the population, organisations, institutions and companies is a stakeholder of the constitutional state and thereby of the Office, which is there to protect that state. Society has a clear interest in services that operate efficiently, and therefore will support those as a principle. However, acceptance is not to be taken for granted.
The Prosecutor’s Offices recognise that their acceptance has been eroded and currently must be considered as insufficient. Their recovery and increase is a priority. That would result in an improved relationship with society and more active support and input from the various parties in that society.
The Offices will have to re-invent themselves to make progress beyond their classic “vertical” role of the magistrate who steers criminal investigations and decides about prosecution in a case-oriented manner. A new “horizontal” role has to be developed aiming at the realisation of broad, sustainable effects.
In this new role, the Prosecutors want to be accessible safety partners who, as equal parties, strive after consultation and cooperation with relevant parties to arrive at joint strategies for intervention and prevention.
Essential to that are aspects like legitimacy, acceptance, visibility openness, contact, accessibility and exchange of information, partnership, solidarity and an external orientation. There is a direct relationship between these issues and overall effectiveness of the implementation of the Offices’ task. Whether these elements are there or not is crucially determined by the culture of the Offices and the behaviour and attitude of their staffs.
The Offices’ actions should always be visible and recognisable in society. This means that priorities and accents of the Offices in their classic role must continuously relate to the social reality.
Selectivity is needed here: choosing the issues that matter most and the interventions with the greatest social impact. Given the current state of the crime in the countries, the Offices in both their case-oriented role and their new environment-oriented role, will focus in the years ahead on tackling three types of crime: cross-border undermining crime, high impact crime and frequently-occurring crime.
Next to that the Offices want to go seriously about the seizure of criminal assets. Cross-border undermining crime poses a big threat to the constitutional democracies, which are still young, small-scaled and therefore vulnerable.
In particular the intertwinement between the upper and underworld is a major concern and has a considerable social impact. The ruthless fight against this type of crime is a top priority.
Achieved results indicate that undermining individuals are caught, that their power and reputation can be broken so that crime does not pay. The Attorney General’s Office has an initiating role in the programmatic, integral approach, which is organised very well and is of an innovative, alternative and multidisciplinary nature.
Additional means are available for additional capacity and specialised expertise.
High impact crimes exert a significant influence on citizens’ feeling of safety. Society relies on protection and is desperate for resolute action from the services; for satisfaction, retaliation, rendering harmless and deterrence.
That requires swift and effective investigation, an increase of the probability of being caught, a dynamic settlement of cases, demanding long-term prison sentences, and a proactive communication strategy. At the same time, “at the front end” investments are made in an integral approach of prevention and in preventing recidivism, particularly with young people and young adults. The strategy aims at early intervention and escalation prevention.
Frequently-occurring crime causes trouble in society, especially on a district level. Although not part of the phenomena of most heavy crimes, it creates well and truly a source of unrest and discomfort among citizens and entrepreneurs due to the very frequent public confrontation within the direct living environment.
It affects the quality of life and therefore dealing with this type of crime is high on the list. Priorities are prevention and a policy of giving retaliation in kind. The services are there and visible, they know what is going on in the districts and who the key players are (for example, due to community and hot-spot policing).
The report states that the document is not to become a toothless tiger, it wants to inspire the collective cause of an overturning moment directed towards a culture of legality and justice in the countries.
The practical implementation requires customising per country and intensive consultation and cooperation with partners, administration and private parties in society. The Offices are happy to take the lead there. They will stimulate, promote and facilitate to the best of their ability, but at the same time they will appeal to all parties.
After all, achieving a cultural change is a task for society in the broadest sense of the term and a shared responsibility, the report concluded.