PHILIPSBURG:--- A comprehensive, multi-disciplinary policy is lacking in Sint Maarten to tackle drug-related crime and drug-related problems. The combating of local drug crime needs an impulse. Drug use, social-economic, and psycho-social problems are mutually sustained. And, the Sint Maarten government is not doing enough where it comes to prevention policy.
These are some of the conclusions from the inspection report that the Law Enforcement Council (hereafter: the Council) published today, March 24. In 2019 the Council conducted research on the approach to drug crime (drug law offenses) and drug-related problems (crime, nuisance and/or problems as a result of or related to drug crime). The Council looked at national, interregional and international laws and regulations, policy, the nature and extent of the drug problem and the approach in practice. In the inspection report, the Council makes nine recommendations to the Sint Maarten Minister of Justice to improve the approach to drug crime and drug-related problems. These recommendations relate to, among other things, legislation, inter-ministerial policy, and political-administrative decision-making to facilitate and improve operational cooperation, prevention, and awareness.
The Council concludes that there is no lack of international and interregional legislation and regulations. However, the national opium law needs to be actualized and a comprehensive, multidisciplinary policy is lacking in Sint Maarten. Because of the focus on combating international drug trafficking at the border, combating local drug crime and related problems do not receive sufficient attention.
The Council welcomes the reinforcement of border control and judicial cooperation to combat international drug trafficking, but here too there is still room for improvement. The local approach of combating drug crime needs a new impulse. There is an urgent need for investments in preventative measures and the quality and accessibility of high-quality (drug) addiction care. Given the seriousness and impact of drug crime and related problems on both the individual as the community level, the Council is of the opinion that the approach should receive high priority.
According to the Council, the approach can be strengthened by investing in the joint coordinating and defining priorities, policies and work-methods of the organizations involved. The approach is now partly dependent on individual judgment and that makes it vulnerable. Efficiency and correct upscaling is essential for criminal investigations, to enable quick action where necessary. In its research, the Council also notes various vulnerabilities in the logistics infrastructure (including security at the airport and harbor). An effective drug approach requires smart investments (for example in extra camera surveillance), inter-ministerial and public-private cooperation and decisive action by the government.
Based on the research results, the Council notes a downward spiral in which drug abuse, socio-economic and psychosocial issues keep sustaining each other. The Council finds it unacceptable that the prevention policy from the Sint Maarten government is currently lacking. Knowledge and awareness are essential to reduce drug demand. Also, addiction care must be of high quality and accessible to everyone. The Council notes that this is currently not the case. The healthcare and justice domain must be better coordinated through inter-ministerial policy. However, none of the ministries involved (Justice; Public Health, Social Development and Labor VSA; Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs OCJS) are taking the lead in this.
Finally, the Council sees possibilities for improvement through broader interregional and international cooperation. The research shows that information is shared in an ad hoc manner between the countries within the Kingdom and internationally. In its research, the Council saw examples of successful cooperation in individual investigations, but it believes that opportunities are being missed because the information is not structurally exchanged and disclosed between the countries. Drug crime is known for being a cross-border problem. Therefore, the Council recommends that the countries improve their interregional and international information position and strengthen cooperation to that end. In addition, the Council notes that interregional and international cooperation is currently mainly repressive (judicial). The Council is of the opinion that the structural sharing of professional knowledge, best practices and results of investigations and research in the field of drug crime and related problems requires improvement.
The inspection report and other reports of the Council can be found on www.raadrechtshandhaving.com