May 19, 2005 Discussions on day two of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police focused on the communities' role in the safety and security of visitors. In another part of the hotel complex at the Carambola Beach Resort, vendors displayed state-of-the-art forensic and computer technology designed to take crime fighting to a new level.
The small Caribbean island of Aruba, which credits 80 percent of its income to tourism, was facing serious threats to its livelihood. Drug sales on the beaches, problems with illegal vendors and petty theft crimes against tourists all threatened to negatively impact tourism.
Marcia Grobman, program coordinator of the Aruba Hospitality and Security Foundation, told how a group of private citizens partnered with the Aruba police to take back their island from the criminal element. She gave a presentation titled "The Aruba Visibility Team: A Model Visitor, Safety and Security Project."
Aruba's solution to crime was a "visibility team" made of private security guards who receive training from the police force to augment police manpower in tourist-populated areas. Grobman credited the concept of the visibility team to Roland Bernadina, Aruba police commissioner. The program, which began in 2000, allowed an overextended police force to utilize additional manpower paid by private funding. Grobman said the program saw immediate results. Analysis of statistics showed a decline in crime, decrease in drug sales, favorable comments from tourists and positive dialogue between the private and public sectors.
Grobman said the visibility team, who wear white t-shirts and blue caps while on patrol, have earned high praise from tourists who rely on team members for anything from a purse snatching to vendor harassment and recommendations of a good Chinese restaurant. The team does not come without a price, however. Monthly donations from private businesses are funneled through a non-profit foundation to pay for the security personnel and equipment. In 2004, the team had an operating expense of $123,000, which was used to purchase a pickup truck, bicycles, all-terrain vehicles, two-way radio communications, training and to pay for a headquarters and utilities.
In 2005, the AH&SF is expanding and increasing awareness of the program. Grobman said that in addition to the visibility that translates to higher visitor perception of security, the police force has more time to respond to more serious crimes.
Another section of the hotel is reserved for vendors of police products. Michael Clamen, regional director of forensic technology for Integrated Ballistics Identification System, stood by his display area ready to espouse the benefits of his product. The Virgin Islands already has one of these," Clamen said, referring to the $17,000 piece of equipment designed to collect and compare ballistic evidence. "I am here to increase awareness in the Caribbean on how technology can assist in law enforcement." Raymond Reynolds sat in front of a display of firearms produced by SigArms, which provides pistols for some branches of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Four semi-automatic models were on display. For all the police's wireless solutions, Comtex and Datmax were ready with the latest in computer technology. To combat drunk driving, Intoximeters Inc. showed three types of equipment to test alcohol content on a suspect's breath. The breathalyzers were either hand held, enclosed in an attaché case or a desktop model. Representative Mark Gilmer said the V.I. Office of Highway Safety already has four of the attaché type equipment, priced at $3,700 each, and two desktop models, priced at $5,600 each.
Several of the commissioners and delegates traveled with their wives to the conference, which ends May 24. Spousal social activities included shopping in Christiansted and Frederiksted and a day trip to St. Thomas and St. John on Friday.
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