Thursday, Feb 20th

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Focus needs to be on fighting crime & helping unemployed


With all of the political situation on the island, we can't lose focus on some of the issues affecting our economy and neighbourhoods, especially with the spate of crime on the island.

Education is key to fighting crime by starting with the young generation, by teaching them morals and values within the school system. We have a lot of houses but few homes in the community and we need to get back to basics where it concerns fighting crime, but also preventing crime on this island by improving our rehabilitation centre where young prisoners, when released early from jail, work them slowly back into the community so they can be productive citizens within society again.

Prison is becoming like a merry go around for a lot of youngsters where they come out and go right back to crime and then back to prison. We need to break that cycle by re-educating these youths to learn a skill through NIPA and have them wear an ankle bracelet when released early to monitor their whereabouts for a year to see how they adopt back into society.

Just look at the statistics and we would see who does most of the armed robberies. They are persons already known in the system.

I would like to see the VKS more involved with the Police in the fight against crime. The VKS are well experienced and trained and know the districts a lot better and have a master plan for Philipsburg and other prone crime areas to make our environment much safer.

As the former Minister of VROMI, I wrote an approval letter to the current Government to issue the VKS a piece of land behind the Vineyard Building to build their offices and training facility. I believe we need to support our law enforcement to better serve and protect the citizens of our island.

I know funds are an issue, but we need to look for the means to finance this project in the best interest of our people and visitors to make St. Maarten safe again. Parliament already recommended to cut their travel budget in half to fight crime and Government needs to prioritize financing for this to make our island safe again.

I also would like to commend the former Minister of Justice Roland Duncan with the community police officers programme in the different districts which is a huge success to develop better working relations between the police and the community.

We need police sub-stations in key areas in the Cul de Sac Basic, in a central location like St. Johns, to cover the entire area, Cole Bay by the Border and Dutch Quarter by Belvedere Border and get some more blue on the road to enforce the law.

We also need to get some of the experienced detectives out in the field with the rookie police officers to share that experience that is much needed in the force. I would rehire back as Advisors some of the senior retired officers like Sir Toddy Peterson, Jean Pierre Roumou, Russell Simmons, Hildo Martina, Major Brown and others. Remember these robbers' look at the weak points of the police force and make these daring robberies in broad day light and in front of anybody.

We need to get the security camera system up and running also in key areas of the island. And Community Councils have to get involved and activate their community watch programmes. Crime is everybody's business if we are going to get results we have to go back to basics.

We also need to start focussing on our youth unemployment rate and teach them a skill and how to apply for a job. A lot of these youths leave jail and go back to the same thing because of no one giving them an opportunity. We need to try and understand their way of thinking which is different than our way of thinking.

On Sunday morning last, I had the opportunity to speak to 10 to 15 young men on the block in St. Peters about this situation. They are very upset and feel very useless ON their own island as St. Maarteners, because since I left as Minister no one HAS GIVEN them THE OPPORTUNITY FOR a job. They feel like they don't have a life. They told me to come back in the afternoon then I would see about 20 more youngsters just sitting on the block. They also would like to let the Government know that they are not a 'lost generation' as mentioned by one of the Ministers.

It is sad to see our young people just sitting without any job opportunities for our own. We need to encourage them because they really try to change their lifestyle and provide for their family. That's why before I left office, I started the process for them to get a two-year contract on trench cleaning in the different districts which the current Minister of VROMI completed, but the boys still have to get paid for their services.

There were two in the group who has a family and work for a security company on the island who has not paid them in 6 months in which I called the owner and told him to pay the young men for their services. The owner told me he is still waiting on Government to pay him to pay the young men for their services.

This is only St. Peters. Imagine the other districts where our young men ARE just looking for an HONEST job opportunity.

In closing, the only way to combat crime, it must be a collective effort by everyone, especially the parent, but we also got to educate our young people to develop a skill and create opportunities for our own to become productive citizens in our society.

Maurice Lake

Member of Parliament