Today’s report that police confiscated four suspected stolen vehicles during a traffic check at Bell’s Lookout Point (see related story) is encouraging. The vehicle identification numbers (VINs) had been tampered with, a clear sign something is wrong.
Car theft has become a growing concern in St. Maarten as Justice Minister Egbert Doran recently stated, also because rentals driven by visitors are not exempt. He quoted figures of just one local insurance company showing 144 cases between 2016 and 2019.
The Prosecutor’s Office too announced handling 141 car thefts last year, further indication that it’s a serious matter. Four out of 38 vehicles stopped amounts to more than 10 per cent, confirming how widespread the problem really is.
Mind you, the current drivers or owners might have no idea of the tampering or will probably try to claim such even if they did. As the minister acknowledged, once the car is registered by government under someone’s name it in effect becomes theirs.
So, a lot more will need to be done to effectively tackle this issue, including going after so-called “chop shop” garages that sell used auto parts, but controls like the one on Tuesday are certainly helpful. Well-intended motorists who unknowingly and innocently become the victim will now have to see what their legal options are at this point.
All vehicle owners who consider themselves law-abiding citizens but aren’t 100 per cent confident of their car’s origin would do well to check the VIN and prevent being caught off guard with all possible inconvenience that may bring.