MARIGOT: The Public Prosecutor of Basse-Terre and the Commander of the Gendarmerie invited the press this Tuesday, September 20, to discuss a subject that particularly affects Saint-Martin, namely armed robbery.
Xavier Sicot, the Public Prosecutor of Basse-Terre, which includes the Northern Islands in its jurisdiction, was accompanied by Captain Mickaël Lecointre, commander of the Research Section in Saint-Martin, Lieutenant-Colonel Maxime Wintzer-Wehekind, commander of the Gendarmerie Company of Saint-Martin Saint-Barthélemy, and Christelle Bellet, deputy prosecutor of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Saint-Martin. Aware of the lack of follow-up on the cases related to the numerous armed robberies (BAMA) that have recently taken place in the territory and that are being handled by the Basse-Terre Public Prosecutor’s Office, Prosecutor Xavier Sicot wanted to inform the press and the population of the progress of these cases.
The phenomenon of VAMA/BAMA has certainly increased exponentially since last May, but the investigative services and the judicial authority have worked hard to reduce it. 33 armed robberies were recorded as of September 14, which has created and continues to create a strong feeling of insecurity in Saint-Martin.
The gendarmerie has put in place a lot of means to ensure that these acts do not go unpunished and the results are satisfactory: out of these 33 robberies, 12 individuals were arrested, 10 of whom were placed in detention. One minor was concerned, a young person who was removed from the island of Saint-Martin and placed under judicial supervision with an obligation to respect a placement in a closed educational center.
In summary, 14 facts were solved out of the 33 VAMA recorded over the period from May to the end of August 2022. Mr. Prosecutor firmly declares: “That the people who are capable of committing these acts understand that at some point, we will have to settle accounts with the justice and judicial authority because obviously, there is a great chance that they will be discovered and put in the only place that seems necessary to us, detention.” If the population and the press can sometimes have the impression that the VAMA cases are not progressing, given that most of the files go to Basse-Terre and that the information is not always relayed, Xavier Sicot assures the contrary and commits himself to improve communication between all parties.
Zero armed robberies since late August 2022
September 2022 has already seen a great lull in VAMA as a result of incarcerations, Xavier Sicot hopes. Lieutenant-Colonel Maxime Wintzer-Wehekind returned to the work of the gendarmerie during the interview with the press. When the VAMAs took off during the summer, the gendarmerie reorganized its field operations. As of August 12, 2022, new operational guidelines and instructions were given to cover the ground more thoroughly, with 30 gendarmes deployed each evening in official or civilian clothing. This led, on August 22, to the arrest in flagrante delicto of an armed robber. The follow-up of the victims remains a priority for the commander of the gendarmerie, the action continues after the facts with advice to improve the protection and the securitization of the shopkeepers (by the installation of video surveillance cameras). The research section had a dozen full-time investigators for the cross-checking and investigation of VAMA, a problem taken very seriously.
Mr. Prosecutor urges the population not to intervene if they are victims or witnesses of an armed robbery, the firearms used are not fake and their lives are at stake.