NAf 14,351.22 in Fines for carnival offences

POSTED: 05/7/15 1:17 PM

St. Maarten—Despite NAF 14, 351.22 in fines, 40 Arrests of which 27 were men and 13 women, 7 lost children, the confiscation of weapons and drugs, carnival 2014 has been billed as a success by the police department and the Prosecutors office, which worked closely with the St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation to ensure the public’s safety during the event.

During a press conference yesterday held by the police force and the Prosecutors office, the authorities disclosed that they consider carnival 2015 a bigger success than previous years. Inspector Ricardo Henson disclosed that of the reported fights, one of the major ones for the season occurred during the last lap jump up which left one woman injured with stab wounds from a sharp instrument believed to be a scissors, although the weapon has not yet been recovered.  Three women are currently in police custody for this fight. As to the incidents of the number of lost children that were brought to the police for their safety, Chief Inspector Benjamin Gout said this is an occurrence every year and again made an appeal to parents to ensure the safety of their children during the carnival. Of the seven kids, the smallest was approximately two years old, and like the six others the child was brought to the police by a stranger who found him alone and obviously lost.

Gout said that the police have appealed to parents on several occasions in the past and that while nothing has been decided the authorities are not adverse to introducing fines next year as a detterent to offending parents. Some of the children were reportedly lost in the village late at night during shows designed for adults. The Chief Inspector was also a bit miffed that despite inspections and other measures taken to ensure safety and that the parades and jump ups could begin on time, there were still bottle necks. One of these was a few trucks not having a second able bodied driver on board in case of an emergency with the main driver so as not to pose a danger to pedestrians. Another hurdle the officers, many of whom worked for the entire carnival period with very little break, had to overcome was the lack of fire hydrants on a couple of the trucks which the drivers and promoters were made aware prior to the jump up and parade was necessary. These were resolved in a satisfactory manner.

Contrary to what the high number of fines may suggest, the judicial authorities were adamant that this represents an improvement over the behavior throughout last year’s carnival. To quote Inspector Henson “Things have improved.” On-the-spot fines were introduced locally for the first time which gave persons arrested the opportunity to pay a fine as opposed to being taken into custody. Many were able to comply with this, but some had to be taken to the Philipsburg police station to cool their heels in a cell while they waited for family or friends to bail them out. Only six persons currently remain in custody for carnival related offences.

The officials lamented that the Grand Carnival Parade of Thursday had to be rushed and as a result was over almost two hours ahead of schedule, but said that could not be helped as their main priority had to be the kids. Some of the kids in the parade were unable to cope with the draining heat from the sun and fainted which was a cause for alarm. The Friday parade however was a huge success with even more people turning out to line the streets to witness this yearly phenomenon.

Inspector Henson commended the police force and other stakeholders like the VKS for their selfless dedication throughout the carnival season. The only wrinkle in an otherwise smooth carnival appears to be that burglars used the opportunity provided by persons being away from home during the events to practice their trade. The exact figures were not available as at press time but will be provided in a follow-up article.

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