PHILIPSBURG–Former Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson commissioned an investigation on juvenile crime on the island because regular concerns have been expressed about the increase in juvenile delinquency in St. Maarten, while the official data from the Prosecutor’s Office and the police does not reflect this increase.
The research was done over a three-month period from December 2014 to February 2015, and was conducted by Emma Merckx and Lieke Buurman, both graduates Master Youth Law. They were guided by the Prosecutor’s Office.
High schools, Police, Bureau of Statistics and the Truancy Office cooperated with the research. Some 460 high school students from the fourth grade filled out a survey. In those three months the Police reported 39 incidents with 53 suspects involved.
Assault is by far the most reported incident, followed by theft and drug-related crimes. During the same period 85 incidents involving 116 students were reported by the high schools. The most frequently reported incidents were assault, threat and theft. Of the 460 fourth grade high school students who filled in the survey, nearly half of them reported to have assaulted someone at some point in time. The students indicated that according to them assault is the most committed incident among high school students, followed by destruction and theft. Many students reported that they have not been punished for their acts.
According to the survey, students who reported delinquent behaviour have slightly more often repeated a class, have been suspended more times, skipped more classes, drink more alcohol and more often use drugs. The research shows that in most cases it is the school that punishes the student that committed a punishable act. The most common penalty is a suspension.
According to youth Prosecutor Karola van Nie suspension is not always the most effective intervention because suspension can lead to expulsion, which can lead to more and severe criminal behaviour; however, without a police report the Prosecutor cannot prosecute, while in juvenile criminal law lots of different effective interventions are possible like a training, community service or youth probation by the Court of Guardianship. This also applies for enforcing the Truancy law. The research shows that skipping classes happens often, but truancy is not always well registered, which means that the truancy officers are not able to write up a police report for the Prosecutor’s Office.
The research report was presented to the Minister of Justice Edson Kirindongo and Minister of Education Silveria Jacobs. Both Ministers stated that they recognise the results of the research and expressed their commitment to work together when it comes to dealing with youth crime. The full report can be downloaded from sintmaartengov.org .
Source: The Daily Herald Assaults high among youth crime in study