Gendarmerie presents SMS alert system for merchants

MARIGOT–The Gendarmerie on Monday presented its latest initiative to improve security, communication and sharing of information for shopkeepers in Marigot through use of an SMS alert system to inform merchants in real time of a robbery in progress.

The initiative is a collaboration between Gendarmerie and Chamber of Commerce and resulted in the signing of a convention. The Chamber of Commerce is financing the SMS system, compiling details of all businesses and phone numbers and producing an SMS Alert sticker. Flyers have also been produced on how to protect your business.

Dubbed “Vigi-Commerce,” the objective is to have fast transmission of information to help thwart armed robberies and warn other shopkeepers. SMS is a modern, low cost, rapid and efficient method of communication that will have a dissuasive effect on would-be offenders, the Gendarmerie indicated. Shops will be provided with stickers that state the premises are protected by an SMS alert system. This is reassuring for customers to know when shopping.

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The system works from the initial call to the emergency number 17 at the dispatch centre of the Gendarmerie. The information from the call about a robbery is then relayed by SMS in French and English to all the merchants. It will state whether the robbers are armed, how many of them, their physical descriptions, whether they have a vehicle or scooters, etc.

Lt. Col. Sébastien Manzoni added, the interactive feature of the SMS system permits merchants to also relay more pertinent information back to the Gendarmerie, on top of the initial information sent out. He said the system will be operational by the end of the month.

Operators at the dispatch centre will be trained to use the SMS system and shop keepers will receive visits to review their security i.e. position of video surveillance cameras, integrity of doors and windows and other preventative measures used.

It was noted small Chinese supermarkets and jewellery stores tend to be more at risk than other shops. Gendarmes are visiting these places of business to consult with the owners on security. Merchants who want to participate in the SMS system can register on the site of the Chamber of Commerce and be automatically added to the system.

Present at the press conference were President of the Merchants Association of Marigot (ACM) Jean Lecam, President of the Association of Indians in St. Martin (AISM) Peter Sadaranghani, Director of the Collectivité’s Delinquency Prevention Department, Patrick Hénocq, representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, including President Angèle Dormoy, representatives from the Chinese community and Federation of Small Businesses.

The SMS alert system was well received by those present. The Chinese representatives expressed some concern about the language barrier. They explained they have a website with some 500 members on both sides of the island and if there is a robbery images are circulated among members. But they wanted to know how to get on the Chamber’s list.

“They will add us, so we can access their information,” Angèle Dormoy explained. “One or two members who form their association will be added to our group so if the information is missed in one way it won’t be missed in the other way.”

Asked for his reaction to the alert system, Peter Sadaranghani said: “I made a proposal to use the “WhatsApp” service in case we want to report something suspicious immediately, but the Gendarmerie said it is something that involves guidelines to follow, especially from the government. But we can create an internal private group headed by the Chamber where we can exchange information and hopefully that can help relay the information on time to the Gendarmerie. The problem with the number 17 is that it takes a while to get connected to the right person; and even worse if there is a language barrier. So, it’s difficult to convey what’s happening at that instance. But with a picture and a couple of words it’s much faster. They (Gendarmerie) think in a few months they will know if they can integrate a WhatsApp group into their system.

“But it’s a good initiative because it’s the first time that we are in touch directly, not only with business people, but with officials at all levels, Police, Gendarmerie and State. It’s a very good step to enhance security. Once we start receiving tourists we want the island to be secure.”

Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/74604-gendarmerie-presents-sms-alert-system-for-merchants

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