Authorities have slackened on the combating of the illegal drugs trade on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba since the islands became Dutch public entities in October 2010, writes The Daily Herald. Crime in general, including drugs use, thefts and violence, may increase on the islands in the coming years due to poverty of the local population. These are some of the conclusions in the report of the Dutch National Police and Royal Marechaussee on safety and crime. The report was drawn up on the request of the Attorney General of Curaçao, St. Maarten, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in 2013. Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten sent the report to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament last week.
The focus of law enforcement authorities in the Caribbean Netherlands on drug smuggling has decreased since the constitutional transition for several reasons; it was stated in the 240-page report which was publicly released yesterday, Tuesday. The Marechaussees have less authority in this area, while the Customs Departments have fewer capacity and means available. Also, the Customs now has a broader responsibility since the introduction of the general sales tax ABB per January 1, 2011. “As a result of the limited attention of law enforcement agencies, authorities barely have a sight on the organised smuggling of illegal drugs,” it was stated in the report. In general the combating of drugs trade and related problems have relatively received little priority from police and justice in the past years, the report continued. According to the report, criminals from St. Maarten are possibly involved in the transfer of drugs in the waters surrounding St. Eustatius and Saba. “There are signals that cocaine is being transferred near the islands for transhipment to other islands.”
The smuggle and trading of drugs mostly concerns cocaine and marijuana whereby the majority is for local use. “The supply of drugs for St. Eustatius and Saba occurs via St. Maarten, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, both over water as well as through the air. Small marijuana plantations have been uncovered in Saba.”
The Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Caribbean Netherlands has made the combating of organised crime, drug smuggling and violent crime its top priorities in its 2014 Year Plan. Minister Opstelten stated that these priorities correspond with the findings in the 2013 crime report. These priorities will also be reflected in the 2014 Year Plan of the Caribbean Netherlands Police Force. Opstelten stated that since the report, which was based on the situation a year ago, several measures have been taken to improve the detective capacity. One detective has been permanently added on the Windward Islands. The exchange of information between the Marechaussee and the Kingdom Detective Team RST will be improved especially where it concerns human trafficking, international and local drugs trade and money laundering.
The crime report contains no figures on the use of cocaine, crack and marijuana on St. Eustatius and Saba. On Bonaire there were some 200 chronic addicts in treatment in 2012. The authors of the report expressed their concerns about the use of drugs on the islands. “The use of drugs is a means for many to forget (financial) stress.” Addicts are often assisted by their family and friends who helps to limit the number of thefts and problems on the street, but a negative aspect is that these substance abusers can continue their addiction for many years. Illegal drugs are easy to get on Bonaire and they are cheap there too: close to a tenth of the price of cocaine in the Netherlands. In the last few years drugs have been more accessible on St. Eustatius and Saba as well. Authorities suspect that the use of drugs will not decrease in the coming years. “The use may even increase in the future if the poverty among the people, and the associated financial insecurity, increases.” There is a chance that users will commit more crimes such as thefts and (armed) robberies to finance their addiction. “Aside from that, one should take into account the danger of youngsters with little future perspective being influenced by criminal networks that are involved in drug trading.”
The authors of the report are concerned that crime in general, mainly thefts, robberies and violence, will increase in the Caribbean Netherlands in the coming years due to poverty of the local population and the rising imbalance of income between the rich and poor on the islands. Police on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in recent years noted an increase in the volume of violent incidents, both on the streets and of a domestic nature.
The increased intensity of violence especially on Bonaire and St. Eustatius is a reason for concern, it was stated in the report. “Incidents get out of hand more often and more weapons are used. Increase of weapon use results in more victims and more (severe) injuries. The overview of weapon possession is limited and weapons appear to circulate in a high speed. The visibility of crime in the community has increased,” it was stated.
Domestic violence remains a problem on the islands and an increase in poverty will only make this worse. Poverty will lead to a rise in financial insecurity which can have an influence on the use of violence. Mostly women are the victim of (domestic) violence, even though violence against men at home was reported on St. Eustatius as well. Sexual violence also occurs in families, almost never in the public domain. Females are mostly the victim of sexual violence. The willingness to report on this form of violence is low, also because the subject is taboo. Sexual misconduct often involves minors. “Sexual relations at a young age are usual, sometimes as young as 12. Notably the number of teenage pregnancies is relatively high on the islands. The birth rate of teenage mothers was 38 per 1,000 in 2011, while this figure was 4.8 in the Netherlands.”