In February 2018, I got introduced to the, what I like to call, ‘towing mafia’ of Sint Maarten. Allegedly, my vehicle was parked at a wrong location in Philipsburg and I found myself going to the Police Station where I wanted to find out where my car was. The Police were able to track my vehicle to a towing agency in Dutch Quarter, who used intimidating strategies to make me pay a 75 dollars towing fee. Under threat of a dog, I was explained that I could only pay in cash because ‘the machine was broken’ and I did not receive a receipt. On top of that, the Sint Maarten Police never provided me with a formal fine, only adding to the lack of transparency of this experience.
After multiple requests to the KPSM to provide me the evidence for why my vehicle was towed, I asked the Ombudsman for assistance. This eventually led to a hearing with the Deputy Chief of Police because never was the KPSM able to provide the requested evidence, nor were they able to provide me the legal or policy basis for how a towing process works. The sole documentation stating the processes of how cars are town, was from January 2019.
During the hearing, it became clear that the KPSM, nor Government has contracts with towing agencies. Yet, they seem to be able to tow away vehicles as they please and make a business out of it. It is unclear why and how a specific company is allowed to take a vehicle while legal base seems missing. When a vehicle gets damaged during the process, nobody can be held liable. The amount to be charged by a towing agency is not regulated. Moreover, there seems to be no tracking system of where the money actually goes. The towing mafia is probably not the only one making money on this scheme.
While I am still waiting to hear an apology or receive back the money I was forced to hand off, I would like to encourage everybody who got their vehicle towed before January 2019, to make an inquiry about their case. It is time to hold government and its public bodies accountable. Yearly elections do not seem to work. Perhaps inquiring on a mass level with specific public bodies will.
Article written by Humera Alam.