Law Enforcement Council: Better approach needed for drug crime, drug-related problems

Law Enforcement Council: Better approach  needed for drug crime, drug-related problems

PHILIPSBURG--A comprehensive, multidisciplinary policy to tackle drug-related crime and problems is lacking in St. Maarten, said the Law Enforcement Council in its inspection report that was released on Tuesday, March 24.

“The combating of local drug crime needs an impulse. Drug use, socio-economic and psychosocial problems are mutually sustained, and the St. Maarten government is not doing enough where it comes to prevention policy,” according to the report.

In 2019 the Council conducted research on the approach to drug crime (drug law offences) and drug-related problems (crime, nuisance and/or problems as a result of, or related to, drug crime). The Council looked at national, inter-regional and international laws, as well as regulations, policy, the nature and extent of the drug problem, and the approach in practice.

In the inspection report, the Council made nine recommendations to the St. Maarten Minister of Justice to improve the approach to drug crime and drug-related problems. These recommendations relate to legislation; inter-ministerial policy; and political and administrative decision-making to facilitate and improve operational cooperation, prevention and awareness; among other things.

The Council said there is no lack of international and inter-regional legislation and regulations. “However, the national opium law needs to be actualised and a comprehensive, multidisciplinary policy is lacking in St. Maarten. Because of the focus on combating international drug trafficking at the border, combating local drug crime and related problems do not receive enough attention,” said the Council.

The Council said it “welcomes” the reinforcement of border control and judicial cooperation to combat international drug trafficking, but there is still “room for improvement.”

“The local approach to combating drug crime needs a new impulse. There is an urgent need for investments in preventative measures and in 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 and community level, the Council is of the opinion that the approach should receive high priority,” said the Council.

According to the Council, the approach can be strengthened by investing in the joint coordination and definition of priorities, policies and work methods of the organisations involved.

“The approach is now partly dependent on individual judgement and that makes it vulnerable. Efficiency and correct upscaling are essential for criminal investigations, to enable quick action where necessary,” said the Council.

In its research the Council also noted various vulnerabilities in logistics infrastructure, such as security at the airport and harbour.

“An effective drug approach requires smart investments (for example, in additional camera surveillance), inter-ministerial and public-private cooperation, and decisive action by the government,” according to the report.

The Council noted a “downward spiral” in which “drug abuse, socio-economic and psychosocial issues keep sustaining each other.”

“The Council finds it unacceptable that prevention policy from the St. Maarten government is currently lacking. Knowledge and awareness are essential to reduce the demand for drugs. 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 Labour VSA; Education, Culture, Youth and Sports) are taking the lead in this,” according to the Council.

The Council said it sees “possibilities for improvement through broader inter-regional and international cooperation.” It said information is currently shared “in an ad hoc manner between the countries within the kingdom and internationally.”

The Council also said it saw examples of successful cooperation in individual investigations, but it believes opportunities are being missed because “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 inter-regional and international information position and strengthen cooperation to that end,” said the Council.

Additionally, the Council said inter-regional and international cooperation is currently mainly repressive. “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,” it concluded.

The inspection report as well as other Law Enforcement Council reports can be found at

www.raadrechtshandhaving.com.