Friday, May 29th

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Editorial - Not soon forgotten

Wednesday's early afternoon incident in the heart of Philipsburg was downright shocking. A shooting near the historic Courthouse right on Front Street sent pedestrians running for their lives in every direction.

A policeman was shot in the neck and said to be in critical condition after what seems to have been a thwarted armed robbery attempt on a local jewellery store. One of the suspects also was shot in the leg, captured and hospitalised.

The timing could not have been worse, with three cruise ships in port. Many of the people who witnessed the dramatic events and fled the scene were obviously passengers who now will surely associate their visit with such.

St. Maarten can ill afford this kind of thing and the international publicity it generates. Crime is a serious problem for any holiday destination and especially one that depends almost exclusively on the hospitality industry for its livelihood.

What happened must have been a very scary experience for all those present, including tourists. Some now may want to discuss the level of security, but evidently in this case one or more officers actually were there to stop a potentially violent robbery that reportedly was in progress.

The question also might be asked whether authorities even ought to have used their service weapons in such a busy location, but especially when police are shot at they understandably will return fire under most circumstances to defend themselves, their colleagues and/or citizens. Moreover, because exactly what occurred is still far from clear, people would do well to stay away from jumping to conclusions.

As horrible as this regrettable incident was, with bullets flying in the centre of the Dutch side's shopping area, it's important to remember that at least one of the culprits didn't get away. That increases the chance of any other person involved being apprehended too.

Luckily, no innocent bystanders were injured and readers also can rest assured that the matter will be duly investigated by the national detectives, as is done basically every time someone is hurt by a firearm of law enforcement agencies.

The hope is, of course, that the wounded officer will recover and not have to pay the ultimate price for complying with his oath to serve and protect the community. His apparent act of bravery is not likely to be forgotten soon and, if in order, definitely should be recognised.