Minister Kirindongo inaugurates forensic lab and shooting range

POSTED: 08/2/16 9:38 AM

St.maarten – The old Soremar Building in Cole Bay is still virtually empty but it holds a lot of promise for the near future. Yesterday Minister Edson Kirindongo cut the blue ribbon on what will become the home of a state of the art shooting range, St. Maarten’s forensic laboratory and the central dispatch room. The control room for the country’s surveillance camera system, currently still housed in Philipsburg, will also move into this building.

The program for the building’s inauguration encountered some delay due to the late arrival of Governor Drs. Eugène Holiday, but then it got underway, first with the blessings from Pastor Brison, who noted that crime is “destroying our way of life, our one-pillar economy and the good name of St. Maarten abroad.”

The chief of the detective department, Commissioner Denise Jacobs, told the invited guests that the professionalizing of the forensic department started six years ago with the arrival of Jos van Deventer. Up to then, forensics was a one-woman show with forensic detective Jeanine Rijna.

But since 12010, Jacobs said, the forensic department has hired two additional co-workers for general forensic work – officers Atmopawiro and Every. The department furthermore added two finger print experts (officers Alexander and Bhattoe) and two digital forensics experts (officers Williams and Wilson).

“At this moment we are making a step towards cyber investigations within digital forensics with the cooperation of Interpol,” Jacobs said.

The Commissioner furthermore mentioned Ms. Constance as a local young professional who completed two internships within the police force.

Jacobs said that the force needs more young local professionals in its ranks. She also emphasized the strides the force has made in solving crimes based on technical expertise. One example is the infamous Regatta-murders; in this investigation, investigators remained clueless until forensic evidence sent them in the right direction.

The Regatta-murders had given Commissioner Jacobs “goose bumps” and she said she had wondered what would have happened with these random murders without technical expertise.

The Regatta-killings occurred during three weeks of terror around the Heineken Regatta in 2012. The killers, Sherwan Roberts and Curtley Allison Richards received a life sentence in First Instance, but on appeal, the court mitigated the punishment for three murders, a rape, a case of ill-treatment and a robbery to 30 years.

The commissioner also thanked her section chiefs and team leaders. “Without tactical investigations and proper information no forensic assistance would be needed,” she pointed out. “Don’t think that you needed me,” she said, I needed you as well.”

Justice Minister Edson Kirindongo said that the ambition is to “grow step by step towards a forensic institute that can also service countries in the region.” The shooting range in the building will be shared with other services, also from the French side, the minister said.

With some pride, the minister announced the third dog brigade at the police force.

“St. Maarten is going through a difficult period financially,” Kirindongo said. “We cannot direct the wind, but we are able to adjust our sails.”

Claudio Ellis, president of the St. Maarten Police Sports Association presented the first copies of a local crime prevention guide to Minister Kirindongo and Chief Commissioner Carl John.

The booklet contains interviews with former Chief Commissioner Peter de Witte, Chief Inspector Turhan Simmons, Chief Inspector Ricardo Henson and with Inspector Ellis, as well as interviews with Steve Smith of Indigo Bay and with psychologist Judith Arndell. Furthermore there are tips about protecting house, family, children and senior citizens and crime prevention tips.

After the speeches, the dog brigade demonstrated the abilities of the dogs and their handlers. Dogs are able to sniff out different items like cell phones, cocaine, ecstacy and marijuana. The dogs showed that they were able to find these materials faultlessly.

The German shepherd in the dog brigade gave an impressive demonstration of how it will act during the arrest of someone who does not give in. Most, if not all people were suitably impressed with the dog’s aggressive and decisive actions.

Minister Kiringdongo cut the blue ribbon on the building together with Chief Inspector Denise Jacobs after which there was an opportunity to inspect the spacious building. There is an in-house parking space for the forensic bus; 6 stations with finger print tables, two stations for digital forensics and a photo lab.

Because the building used to house a car dealership, there is a door through which the forensic bus can drive up to the first floor of the building.

The space at the back of the building will house the shooting range where it is possible to practice shooting at a 270 degree angle.

MP Frans Richardson congratulated Minister Kirindongo saying that the inauguration of the building to house a new Forensics Lab and Shooting range is “the latest in our efforts to give the police force of St. Maarten the tools they need to effectively and efficiently fight crime. We cannot accept an environment where our law enforcement is at a disadvantage so it is crucial that we do what we must to ensure they are well equipped to do their job.”

Forensic laboratories the world over, Richardson said, are crucial to our criminal justice system. The expertise in our lab will provide invaluable information that aids in the investigation and prosecution of crime through the scientific examination of physical evidence. “We are in 2016. The majority of crimes today are solved using forensic science. There are newer technologies every year in this field. I want to see the day come when our lab not only plays a key role for solving crime locally, but can lend a hand to our neighbors as well,” Richardson said.

The USP leader also lauded the addition and creation of the K9-brigade which will help officers track down and sniff out contraband and other material that criminal minded individuals might try to hide from law enforcement.

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