The Bottom, Saba: During a live radio program “Changes” on Monday, April 14th 2008 the Crime situation on the island was discussed by the host of the program Mr. Dave Levenstone.
Mr. Levenstone said that the whole matter regarding the issue needs to be looked at very seriously, the community is crying out that nothing is being done and Levenstone said that he shares some of the comments from within the community but he also stated that in his opinion blame for the rise of crime should not be solely placed at the door of the Police Department. Each and every citizen has a role to play in trying to solve the problem. It is a known fact that plenty people will talk about the situation but when it comes time for them to come forward with certain information they do not and that is not the way that we should be trying to alleviate the matter.
There is a rise in crime on the island but the entire community must get involved to help solve it. What are we as a community doing to help combat it? Sitting back and complaining will not help. Writing letters to the editor in the newspapers may sound nice but that does not solve the problem; and those who do write letters to the editor on the crime situation should be also bold enough to publish their name so that the entire world can know what they are thinking and feeling.
Some of the crimes that are committed are being solved by the police department with what little tools they have in place. We have seen an increase in break ins and some of them are being solved, maybe not in the time span that many would like them to be resolved in, but everyone has to remember that the police force just cannot go around arresting people like crazy based on suspicions solely.
We as Sabans have to also come up with solutions. For years there has been talk about protecting the harbor area. When we had nothing at the harbor security guards were stationed in the evening time and now that we have port traffic there are no safeguards. There was a plan to have a guard house built with a boom on the road leading down to the harbor on the opposite side of the In Two Deep Restaurant and this should have been financed out of the Plan Veiligheid Funds, to date this project has not materialized and this is badly needed as our harbor is too free; having security guards stationed there during the day time does not make any sense.
Four years ago there was talk about introducing a neighborhood watch in each village and this was discussed at a Town hall meeting, to date nothing has been done in order to have this put in place. What we have been seeing on the island is a lot of talk and talk when it is convenient. In trying to solve the crime situation there is a lot of hypocrisy involved because when it touches one of our own we try to cover it up.
The drug business on the island is not only within the small little black young boys, they are not the main persons involved in the drug trafficking there are some big fish within the system but it seems that only the little guppies are looked at.
During the program some callers also expressed the desire to invite those that are involved with law and order on the island such as the Local Chief of Police, the Chief Inspector of Police and the Acting Public Prosecutor to the program so that they can answer to the community. It would be nice having them on the program but it should not be used as a court case. The community should be able to receive first hand information on what is being done. Host of the program also said that he is of the opinion that the Minister of Justice should be also invited to attend the live radio program because at the end of the day the Minister of Justice is the one that has to approve whatever actions will take place in order to help solve the crime situation on the island.
We all know that our police department is badly understaffed; this however should not be an excuse for them not being able to carry out their duties and using outdated material and tools in order to solve crimes on the island. Police officers on Saba do not even have digital cameras; in order to take pictures for any case they are forced to use their own private cellular telephones with a camera. In this day and age the Police Department should have state of the art equipment in order to carry out their tasks. Each Police officer should be afforded a digital camera as part of their equipment in carrying out their duties within the community.
Apparently the Police Department on Saba is left out of many things that any modern police department should have. With the whole crime situation on the island one must not also forget that our local elected members of the Island Council also have a role to play and to date we have not heard one elected member of the people speak out on the issue and this is very confusing. In addition, the Island Government also has a role to play in helping to solve the crime situation on the island but instead our representatives are fast asleep and not looking at the real problems of the island. Our island council is good in spending time arguing over article 27 and 28 of the Standing Orders of the Island Council which does not make any sense at all.
There are however some solutions that can be looked at. We all have to remember that the police force cannot and will not solve all of the crime problems on the island without the support and input of the community. For too long now there has been too much criticism regarding the police department and the community needs to get away from that type of behavior. Police officers should not be looked at as the enemy of the community, they are there to protect all of us and as a people we have to do more than bad talk.
Criticizing the Police officers is not helping the situation at all. Another matter that we have to be careful with is the amount of negative reports that appear in the media regarding crime. We have to all remember that we have a medical school on the island and for every time negative news hits the papers it could damage the lively hood of many on the island because students would get the feeling that their safety is not guaranteed and they will just stay away from coming to study on Saba. A sound policy needs to be put in place on how to report crimes. I am not saying that it should not be reported at all but reporting in a negative manner should not be tolerated either.
There are those that cry out about the use of drugs but let us be honest with ourselves when it concerns drugs. If there are so many drugs in circulation someone seems to be using it and to be honest I don’t think it is only the local people. Thank God we have not seen any chollers on the streets of Saba so it goes to show that the little drugs are being used in a manner to which it cannot be seen. I agree there are drugs on the island, but then we have to be-careful how we go about it because there are those that are fast to speak out against the use of drugs etc. but they to have to check themselves because if you are talking about it and when it is convenient you go out to purchase it for a loved one then you are just as bad. These are the realities that we have to look at very seriously.
On Saba we have been having several meetings with the Minister of Justice on the crime situation etc. but there is never any follow up on the part of all the meetings. We have to ask ourselves as a community what are we really busy with. Meeting with the Minister of Justice to complain? We have to come up with sound solutions.
These are some of the recommendations that should be looked at urgently:
Good communication between the community and the Police Force is lacking and needs to be improved urgently.
Good telecommunication with the Police officers is also needed so that they can be reached at all times.
Grant each Police officer a temporary cellular telephone.
Publish each Police officer’s public cellular telephone number all over the island.
Publicly publish the telephone numbers of the Police Department.
Have a better system of control at all ports of entry to the island.
Have a sub police station reopened in the Windwardside especially in the evening hours.
Have a 24 hour shift put in place, as soon as possible, which will mean bringing the Police Department up to the exact amount of officers, if we have to bring them in from Holland then do so.
Money from the Plan Veiligheid should be made available to help carry out programs for the youth of the island.