Law Enforcement Council calls for integrated look at youth delinquency

PHILIPSBURG–The Law Enforcement Council announced to the media on Wednesday that there is no prevention policy that specifically concerns juvenile delinquency in St. Maarten. However, the Council notes that there is an initiative at departmental level to work on a Judicial Youth Policy.

Juvenile delinquency, in general, exists all over the world to some degree. It ranges from “innocent behaviours” to serious offences committed by minors.Where offences are committed, focus should be on appropriate and, where necessary, coercive measures to prevent deviant and criminal behaviour, noted the Council in its most recent report on the issue of preventing juvenile delinquency in St. Maarten. Furthermore, measures should be geared towards prevention of repetition of offences, stated the Council’s release.

Based on its own investigations, the Council noted a lot of interest for this topic. It discovered that many persons in society and in the workplace are committed to the youth and have an opinion on the problem, as it affects many persons in the community.

Judging from the latter, the Council concludes that the willingness and preparedness to work on the prevention of juvenile crime in St. Maarten, is widely present. It further believes that there is little structural interaction between the organisations involved, except for the Judicial Case Discussions − which at the time of the investigation had ceased for some time. “Communication seems an ad hoc affair,” noted the Council in its findings.

Therefore, the Council concluded that no framework for a judicial youth system has been established. From the interviews conducted, it concluded that there was insufficient clear harmonisation between the organisations and coordination in mutual relations. The organisations operate in a fragmented manner. Even though the need for a joint approach is recognised, it does not appear to be optimal at this time.

The Council further observed that there are several good initiatives for the prevention of juvenile crime in St. Maarten both inside and outside of the judicial system, but given the lack of cooperation and coordination, it considers that improvements can be made if the Ministries of Justice and Youth and Culture join forces.

Despite the conclusion that much is to be achieved in the field of general prevention of juvenile delinquency, the Council sees improvement in the individual approach to young offenders. Once a young person is under the care of the Justice authorities, there is an individual plan to prevent a repeat of offences.

Achievements in this direction have been reached through the strengthening of the Court of Guardianship and the juvenile probation system, as well as through the establishment of the Miss Lalie Centre, and their approaches. These approaches not only combat juvenile delinquency, but crime in general, noted the Council’s report.

A side note is that the situations looked into often relate to young people who have committed serious offences. The research shows that these are young people who often have been known for some time by various justice authorities as youth at risk and who have experienced either deviant or criminal behaviour, very bad conditions of upbringing and, in many cases, a combination of both.

Therefore, the Council is of the opinion that additional aspects should be addressed where so-called “entry-level crimes” are committed by young people, to limit the probability that they develop from bad to worse without consequences.

The newly-introduced legal possibility of intervention by the police provides opportunities to do so. However, this possibility is still not used due to the lack of necessary regulation and organisation of the associated project. Among other things, the Council has formulated a recommendation regarding this bottleneck.

The full report, including an executive summary, can be found on the Council’s website

www.raadrechtshandhaving.com .

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