Only with a comprehensive, integrated approach can real results be achieved with regard to the firearms problem in Sint Maarten. Only a repressive action by the judiciary, and in particular by the Sint Maarten Police Force (KPSM), does not offer a solution to the current illegal firearms problem.
Ministries, agencies and the community as a whole must structurally work together to tackle the causes and consequences of illegal firearms and the related problems. The socio-economic aspects must also be taken into account and the development of (prevention) strategies with special attention for young people. This is stated in the most recent inspection report from the Law Enforcement Council. Following a request from the Minister of Justice, the Council carried out an inspection into the prevention and combating of illegal firearms trade and illegal firearms possession in Sint Maarten. The Council made seven recommendations on this subject.
Nature and size
There is no precise insight into the nature and extent of illegal firearms smuggling, the illegal firearms trade and illegal firearms possession in Sint Maarten at the Ministry or the services. The Council is of the opinion that without a good overview of the problem, optimal management at a strategic level (management of the services together with the ministry) cannot be achieved, a targeted policy and an integrated approach are only possible to a limited extent and the necessary investments cannot be prioritized. turn into.
Legal framework and protocol
The applicable legal framework with regard to firearms on Sint Maarten is clear and is composed of treaties and national legislation. In addition to the legal framework, the Protocol on mutual reinforcement of border control is also relevant. The legislation is dated but does not present any bottlenecks for the various services during the execution of the work. The commitment of the justice system to the problem is positive, even though it remains a serious problem and incidents continue to occur, according to the Council. The aforementioned protocol offers opportunities for structural improvements to the judicial services in Sint Maarten, also with regard to the prevention and combating of illegal firearms trade.
The services involved in this cooperation are Customs, the Caribbean Coast Guard, KPSM and the Immigration and Border Control Service (IGD). This protocol imposes a number of obligations on the country of Sint Maarten, including the writing of an action plan by all stakeholders. This is for the purpose of strengthening the border, one of the intended objectives of which is the prevention of illegal firearms trade.
Judicial approach and cooperation
The Council concludes that high priority is given to illegal firearms within the investigation by both the services and the Public Prosecution Service (OM). The Council has the impression that people are in the same direction on this subject and that what is possible is being done with the limited resources. Here too, the Council reiterates that even more results could be achieved by joining forces. The multidisciplinary team that carried out checks on public roads – which everyone agrees has achieved good results – is an excellent example of how to achieve this.
The Council believes that it is precisely because of the ubiquitous lack of capacity that there should be more cooperation and use should be made of each other’s capacities and powers. The lack of capacity also makes the importance of qualitative and quantitative information-driven deployment by investigative services even more crucial. However, the limited analysis capacity of the services plays a negative role here.
Cooperation with the French is considered crucial, especially because of the open borders. There is cooperation with the French, among other things, for the purpose of exchanging information, conducting searches and carrying out joint checks. There is a good relationship between the French and Dutch authorities and in the workplace, but establishing the cooperation at political level is difficult. The Council believes that the Minister of Justice can play a stimulating role in this regard.
The Council considers the effectiveness of law enforcement to prevent and combat illegal firearms trafficking and illegal possession of firearms below par and disproportionate to the seriousness of the problem and would like to see the effectiveness of the services improved. The Council concludes that there is (still) too little evidence of an integrated approach by the services with regard to the subject of illegal
[1/31, 9:30 AM] J3: firearms.
“While Sint Maarten constantly struggles with a lack of resources to tackle the problems that threaten society, including the problem of illegal firearms, there is hope that a lot can be achieved by joining forces by the services. All those involved are aware of the bottlenecks and above all have the will to tackle them. However, they do need the necessary support in areas such as policy and finances from politics and the administration in order to be able to realize concrete plans,” the Council writes.
The impact of illegal firearms on the community is great and the lack of victim support is a great loss. The Council has addressed victim support in several previous reports. This now seems to be about to change with the establishment of a foundation to provide victim support.
A restrictive arms policy and its enforcement contribute to keeping society safe. Although arms policy is a separate subject, the Council has also considered this, because the licensed and illegal sides are communicating vessels. Not properly arranging, recording and checking the licensed side entails risks and can have consequences for the illegal side and, for example, lead to a weapon ending up in the illegal circuit. In response to the findings, the Council is considering conducting an investigation into the broader subject of arms policy at a later date.
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