SINT MAARTEN (ST. PETER’S/REWARD) - Fourteen teenagers have committed suspected criminal offenses at or in the vicinity of their schools between August 27 to September 17. This averages about five incidents per week. These incidents and arrests were related to violence, carrying weapons and/or illicit drugs.
The incidents have been lessened due to increased police presence and a combined initiative of schools, the Police Force of Sint Marten KPSM and other stakeholders in the major school district of St. Peters/South Reward in the past week. However, this is not a permanent solution as security is not the only basis for the issues faced in schools. This is evidenced by the fact that four of the 14 teenage boys have had prior contact with the law.
Further, the teenagers involved in the incidents range in age from 13 to 18. The majority is 16-year-olds.
The latest incident was of a student suspected of destruction of property outside of school grounds. This was reported on September 17.
The latest arrest on September 16 was of a student suspected of snatching a chain from someone’s neck. This student together with another student, age 15 and 16, are suspected of committing the act on September 6.
The first incident and arrests for student-on-student violence occurred on August 27 when a fight erupted between two students outside of school grounds. Another student was an accomplice of the aggressor by supplying him with brass knuckles. A third student with another pair of brass knuckles was also involved in this case. The fight was videoed by students and shared via social media.
Less than a week later on August 31, another student was found at school with a quantity of marijuana and what at first appeared to be a handgun in his backpack along with his notebooks and lunch. The weapon, after examination by police, was found to be a pellet gun. The pellet gun looked similar to a real gun. If it is used to threaten someone, he/she may not know the difference.
The very next day, September 1, yet another student at the same school was found with a quantity of marijuana in his possession during a routine security check.
Possession of marijuana got another two students in trouble the following day, September 2, and on September 7.
The weekend passed without any incident as school doors were shut, but the incidents reemerged with a stabbing on September 6.
An 18-year-old student from one school stabbed a student from another school. The victim’s injuries were not serious, however, the fact that someone was stabbed in school is alarming.
In a case of extortion on September 6, another teenager is in trouble with the law for suspected extortion. He is suspected of taking at least US $2 from fellow students in school.
A 15-year-old student was arrested on September 7. The student is a suspect co-perpetrator of a scooter theft. He has a prior record for serious ill-treatment.
A student was found with a machete in school. This occurred on Friday, September 10, 2021. The deadly weapon was discovered in a routine security check at a school.
The long and growing list of serious offences perpetrated by teenagers is very troubling and does not paint a picture of safety and security for the overall student population and the community as a whole. What are even more causes for concern for the Prosecutor’s Office are the students’ ages (the youngest was 13) and the reoffending of those who already have a record.
The plight of the children and the triggers for violence require a concerted and targeted approach by all in the community. These are no longer isolated issues, but ones of profound impact on the society and requires everyone to take on their (assigned) roles.
The root of the aggression of our children and the violence triggers must be tackled post haste to disrupt the path that leads to criminality and children becoming the subject cases handled by the Prosecutor’s Office. Parents and guardians have a vital part to play in curbing criminality in their children and in society.
To all of Sint Maarten students, think before you act aggressively, keep tempers in check, and avoid criminal activities. Bear in mind that, getting in contact with the law can harm your future prospects - everything from gaining entrance into institutions of higher education to job opportunities.
It is also very important for you as students to speak up if you notice illegal activities in and around your schools. To “say something when you see something” does not equate to snitching or ratting out a fellow student, because it is the responsibility of everyone to do their part to ensure there is a safe environment to learn and thrive in. Remember, it is for your safety too!