Shiva’s Gold and Gems in Front Street.
PHILIPSBURG--”Luckily there were no customers in our store,” Ajay Alwani, owner of Shiva’s Gold and Gems, said of the robbery at his Front Street business. Four armed men entered the jewellery store at 1:30pm Monday. One of them shattered display cases with a sledgehammer.
The robbers first grabbed expensive designer watches and then haphazardly grabbed jewellery from counters in the showroom. With about 20 per cent of Shivas’ collection, the robbers took off on two scooters, down Front Street, and then towards Over the Bank.
The havoc in the high-end jewellery business is painful to see. Broken glass everywhere! Empty jewellery counters. Alwani assessed the damage in the afternoon. His mind focused on solutions, he said: “Our security officers in Front Street need panic buttons. They must be able to alert each other in case of an emergency. This will be arranged this week.”
Front Street will become better prepared, said Alwani, who called the recent spree of robberies “disturbing”. “Especially for tourists. Luckily, there were no customers in the store at the time of the robbery,” he said.
Four men on two scooters came down the alley next to Shiva’s from Boardwalk Boulevard at 1:30pm Monday. All four of them wore black motorcycle helmets, their faces hidden behind dark visors. One of the men pointed his gun at the woman who was a security guard standing in front of Shiva’s entrance. A security officer with a watchdog was patrolling down the street.
“They came inside while holding a gun to the woman’s head. She was forced to lie down on the floor,” Alwani said. His sales staff watched as the showroom jewellery counters were shattered. “The robbers focused on the expensive designer watches. The other jewels were an afterthought,” Alwani said.
Although he could not see their faces, he thinks the boys are no older than 30. “They were young, and fast,” he said, suspecting that they have robbed before, albeit not a jewellery store. “They just grabbed jewellery; I guess not really knowing what pieces they actually took.”
The robbers spoke English, Alwani said. “After they took the jewellery, I heard them say, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!’”
Police searched the Over the Bank area and traced three of the four suspects. “The suspected robbers were caught thanks to the quick response of patrols in the vicinity,” police explained. “The robbers fled the scene on scooters and holed up in a house in Over the Bank. Law enforcement officials swiftly got to the scene where the arrests were made and the stolen jewellery and watches were found, as well as a firearm.”
The suspects are currently held at the police station in Philipsburg.
Alwani and his team were relieved to hear the news of the arrests. “The quick action of the police is commendable. They have done an excellent job.”
The search for the fourth suspect continues. This investigation is led by the Special Unit Robberies (SUR) team of St. Maarten Police Force KPSM. This team is also investigating two armed robberies that took place on Saturday in Simpson Bay, targeting supermarkets. There the robbers also wore motor helmets with dark visors.
Police patrols have increased monitoring at high target areas in the districts in an effort to curb further robberies, KPSM said. “After a quiet end of the past year in terms of robberies, this worrisome phenomenon has once again resurfaced.”
SUR has tallied a total of 19 robberies with violence of varying degrees over the last eight weekends, including the snatching of chains, attempted and armed robberies.
SUR detectives urge anyone with information about these robberies to contact KPSM on tel. +1-721-542-2222 ext. 204 or 205, or the anonymous tip line 9300, or by leaving a private message via the Facebook page Police Force of Sint Maarten (Korps Politie Sint Maarten) if you know or suspect something.