The Caribbean Netherlands Police Force KPCN publicly presented declining Saba crime figures over the past year, in the first press conference of this kind held Friday at the Police Station in Windwardside. This writes The Daily Herald. Caribbean Netherlands Chief of Police Hildegard Buitink was joined in the conference by Island Governor Jonathan Johnson, Head of Caribbean Netherlands Basic Police Care Jose Rosales and Senior Saba Police Officer Wingrove Baker.
The local crime figures show a significant decline in violent crime compared to 2012, it was stated. Maltreatments or assaults decreased from 28 cases in 2012, to nine in 2013. There were no assaults with weapons in 2013 compared to six in 2012, and no reported robberies or acts of public violence. Domestic violence only slightly decreased to eight cases last year, from nine in 2012 and reported threats went down from 19 to seven in 2013. Property crimes, such as burglaries, declined from 12 in 2012, to seven in 2013. There were four home burglaries, while three businesses were broken into in 2013. There was a slight increase in thefts from 14 in 2012 to 16 cases in 2013. Traffic accidents went from 30 to 27 in 2013, it was said.
Chief Buitink attributed the declining crime figures to the professionalization of personnel and on the improved focus on local challenges and more assistance from specialized police officers. Governor Johnson attributed the increasing crime rate in 2011 and 2012 to “certain individuals testing the boundaries” of the new police force of the Caribbean Netherlands. He noted that institutional consolidation and the threat of available incarceration capacity acted as a deterrent in reducing recidivism in 2013.
“Challenges persist in getting people to feel comfortable with visiting the police station to report a crime,” said the governor. This is because crime-reporting protocols deny confidentiality and this is felt to lead to possible threats or repercussions on the informant. “It will take time for people to gain trust in the Police Force,” Governor Johnson concluded.
Chief Buitink said she had started her mandate with KPCN on July 1, 2013, after 36 years of police experience in The Netherlands. This was her sixth visit to Saba since taking office. She described the contact with Governor Johnson as “positive.” She characterized KPCN as “a young, ambitious police force,” stressing the importance of cooperation between Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. “Distance is not a challenge,” she said. “We have a lot of technology that allows us to be in good contact.” She also noted ongoing cooperation with the police in the other Dutch Caribbean islands and with the Marines and Coast Guard.
Buitink highlighted the good results in combating crime in general on Saba, adding that “We have not always communicated these results.” She acknowledged that the public’s perception of the police has not always been positive, particularly in communicating with residents and she promised improvement in this area.
Asked about how she attempts to bridge the perceived miscommunication between the Police and residents, Buitink mentioned the appointment of two community police officers on Saba and one criminal detective on Statia, who will also be working on Saba.
Top priority in KPCN’s plans for 2014 plan is to strengthen ties to the community and develop a communication plan with residents and the media, it was said. Training courses were mentioned among positive developments. Chief Buitink also pointed to joint work with Dutch Forensic Institute (NFI) in improving regional capacity in crime-scene investigation by establishing an investigation unit on Bonaire and having officers rotate on the islands. The renovation of the police station in The Bottom is also scheduled for this year.
A career development process is underway for current personnel and training for aspiring police officers will start in an attempt to attract Sabans in the force. Interested Sabans would be given courses to perfect their Dutch language abilities so as to enter the force.
Asked about internal evaluation of personnel and measures taken to prevent abuse of Police powers, Rosales assured that the officers are being evaluated on their performance. He acknowledged that officers involved in past incidents were evaluated internally. Chief Buitink added that every citizen has the right to formally complain about police abuse and several complaints were received and dealt with. With regard to complaints about the efficiency of the emergency dispatch service on Bonaire, it was said that personnel are to be better trained.