Captain Régis Turlan Arto of the Marigot Gendarmerie on St Maarten confirmed 65 persons have been arrested to date, mostly related to looting in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the local press reports.
“We have found stolen goods either in homes or cars, but the problem is we don’t know who the victims are because these shops or businesses have not come forward yet to file complaints,” said Captain Arto. “Clearly they have too many problems to deal with.”
The figure quoted by the deputy in command includes misdemeanours, petty crimes, drunken driving and verbal insults (outrage) against Gendarmes.
However, the Gendarme pointed out that no armed robberies “of the type normally prevalent before the onset of the hurricanes” or murders had been recorded by September 20.
“Most of the sanctions are related to receipt of stolen goods. This carries a penalty of five years in prison compared to three years for the theft itself. Most of the thefts were committed in the 48 or 96 hours after the passing of the hurricane. After that there was no more looting when more Gendarme reinforcements arrived and curfews were put in place.”
The challenge, however, is that the reopening of the courthouse has not been confirmed, and although Prosecutors have set up a temporary office in the Marigot Gendarmerie, in most cases “the Prosecutor is issuing summonses to suspects from six months to eight months in the future”.
Presently, more than 600 Gendarmes are in St Maarten, compared to 180 before the hurricanes while in St Barts, the number of Gendarmes has jumped from 21 to 35, and Police aux Frontieres (PAF) have been increased from 60 to 70. These reinforcements are said to be in place for three months.