St. Maarten hosts initiative to launch platform for Caribbean crime analysts

St. Maarten hosts initiative to launch  platform for Caribbean crime analysts

Chief of Police John advocated transnational cooperation between data-driven law enforcement agencies exchanging information about criminal networks in the region.

 SIMPSON BAY--Crime analysts from islands all over the Caribbean and from the Netherlands, France and Guyana, came to St. Maarten last week for a networking conference aimed at cooperation in the Caribbean region.

Under the auspices of Minister of Justice Anna Richardson, the event at Simpson Bay Resort called for region-wide data-driven crime analysis.

Transnational organised crime and violence are identified in reports by international organisations as major urgent crime problems in the Caribbean region. The biennial Regional Crime Assessment, edition 2020-2022 being the most recent one, states that the countries and islands in the region remain attractive for criminal networks involved in the transport of cocaine.

The report “Security and Rule of Law in the Caribbean” of the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) notes: “Although they are not source countries and they are not the most important support points, Aruba and Curaçao, a few dozen kilometres off the coast of Venezuela, are halfway stations for cocaine from South America to other islands and countries in the region. In the eastern part of the Caribbean, St. Maarten is also an intermediate for transports to Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Europe.”

It is noted that Aruba's role is smaller than that of Curaçao. Drug seizures in Aruba waters do occur, but they mainly involve ships passing Aruba en route to Europe or the United States.

The European Drug Report 2021 shows that the drug market responded very resiliently to border closures and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. InSight Crime indicated that organised crime had to tighten its belt for a while, but that it was “business as usual” again at the end of 2021.

Other threats to the islands and countries in the Caribbean include cybercrime, online gambling, human-trafficking, money-laundering and corruption. The region is also confronted with disaster fraud, crime-related disasters and crises such as destruction by hurricanes and earthquakes.

Criminal networks nowadays have varied portfolios; they have many different criminal activities on their agendas. Just like legal companies, they diversify, partly to spread risks. They are also driven by supply and demand, just like legal companies. If there is a crisis somewhere and there is a demand for human smugglers, criminal networks come into action.

A trend is the increase in trade-based money-laundering (TBML), the use or setting up of trading structures to launder criminal money. China is regularly linked to these practices in the literature.

“Given the ties with the Caribbean countries and the many Chinese supermarkets and hardware stores on the islands, it is not unlikely that Chinese in the Caribbean region are involved in TBML in addition to underground banking. Buying up real estate also fits into this scheme,” the crime picture analysis states.

Criminal networks use technological developments just like legal companies. St. Maarten Chief of Police Carl John, who attended the conference at Simpson Bay Resort as president of the Board of Caribbean Chiefs of Police, said: “Criminals use the same technology as we do, they acquire the latest technology and are more and more tech-savvy. Our challenge is to stay ahead of the criminals. This is only possible if crime analysts in the region work together and all Caribbean police forces function as data-driven agencies.”

John advocated transnational cooperation and exchange of information about criminal networks, their trade routes, affiliates and facilitators of their criminal activities on the islands. The importance of regional cooperation between crime fighters is so great and evident that national borders and local laws and regulations should not hinder the exchange of information by law enforcement agencies, he said. “I hope that this networking event in St. Maarten will lead to a regional platform for strategic data-driven crime analysis.”

John encouraged the approximately 60 crime experts present to get to know each other, continue to communicate with each other, and promote the use of the newest technologies available for exchanging information. “We all need data,” he said, urging his audience to collectively harness the power of information for more proactive and informed decision-making.

Having the right information is essential for fighting crime. Data analysis is also a powerful tool for crime prevention. It is used in criminal profiling, social media policing, monitoring human-trafficking, tracking gun violence, assessing risk of convicted criminals, generating criminal profiles and improving community relations.

Intelligence centres have now been set up in all countries in the region. St. Maarten Police Force KPSM has developed a dashboard that makes it clear at a glance what the current state of affairs is in the field of crime, the deployment of police and the relationships between the two. This instrument is essential for information management.

After Minister of Justice Anna Richardson opened the conference at Simpson Bay Resort, the first speaker was chairman of the kingdom steering group on information sharing and coordination J. Nicolaas. “Last month, at the end of a high level meeting held in Curaçao between police organisations of the Kingdom of the Netherlands where we discussed the need for ongoing police cooperation and information sharing, I mentioned the importance of milestones and I would like to do that again today.”

Nicolaas explained that milestones, in project management, are more than just markers on a timeline; they encapsulate the essence of progress, serving as pivotal checkpoints that illuminate the road ahead and reflect upon the journey travelled. “Standing here, I am looking at an achieved milestone right here in this room – a room full of crime and intelligence analysts from different agencies and from different countries of the region.”

The collection and use of data by law enforcement agencies are among the most valuable and powerful tools law enforcement agencies can employ to visualise and understand the reality of crime and other incidents that affect their respective countries, Nicolaas said. “Intelligence-led policing is, as we all know, often best described and understood as a 4I-model with a focus on interpreting the criminal environment as an active activity, to influence the decision maker, who uses the knowledge to impact the criminal environment.”

He referred to Professor Jerry Ratcliffe who defines intelligence-led policing as pivotal to an objective decision-making framework that prioritises crime hot spots, repeat victims, prolific offenders and criminal groups. “It facilitates crime and hard reduction, disruption and prevention through strategic and tactical management, deployment, and enforcement,” Nicolaas said. “The overall aim of intelligence-led policing is to transform the policing enterprise into a more proactive, less incident-based organisation with a strong emphasis on analysis-driven products to support decision-makers.”

He said all present in the room could agree that data analysis has become more important than ever in managing law enforcement agencies and that it has the potential to transform the way regional law enforcement agencies operate. “In today’s Caribbean region’s reality, where crime is becoming increasingly complex and challenging, this is a must,” he said.

“It has to be noted that simply hiring a data or crime analyst is not going to make an agency, department or team data-driven overnight. Analysts don’t act on their own data or keep it to themselves, they integrate it and share it with other teams, agencies and other government ministries and also, to a growing extent, with decision makers. All of these so-called data-clients need to become data literate in order to draw tactical, strategic and even policy conclusions from the data products they receive.

“The process of becoming data literate is the real challenge. One of the core responsibilities of a crime analyst is to ensure that the collected data is properly analysed and thus is reliable.”

Properly analysed and understood data will empower agencies and officers to carry out their mission, Nicolaas said. “The future of policing will most certainly need a different mix of employees than our traditional mix of police officers in different positions and roles. It will need more civilian specialists and more contract employees.”

Nicolaas expressed hope that the first regional analyst networking gathering in St. Maarten could result in tangible insights into how police have to move forward and create effective data-driven agencies that are data-literate, as part of the strategic management.

“My message to you is that we want to listen to you and include you in these efforts.”

The Daily Herald

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