Ombudsman starts systemic investigation into KPSM/OM motor vehicle confiscation policy

February 20, 2023 5:00 pm

PHILIPSBURG, The Ombudsman has initiated a Systemic Investigation into the motor vehicle confiscation policy of the Police Force of Sint Maarten (KPSM).

The Ombudsman has received numerous complaints, some dating back to the year 2020, regarding the police force confiscating motor vehicles during traffic controls and/or for suspicion of the vehicle being stolen. Complainants allege that vehicles remain in the custody of the police, sometimes for months, and despite repeated visits to the police station, without proper explanation. In some cases, even after it has been established that the vehicle was not stolen, through the provision of verifiable legal documentation.

In a recent complaint, the stolen vehicle was returned, through the intervention of the Ombudsman, after being in police custody for over 3 months. In another case, the vehicle was returned after 2 months, also through the intervention of the Ombudsman, but without the original key that operates the vehicle's alarm system. Seemingly the key that was in the possession of KPSM, when the vehicle was confiscated, had been misplaced. Additionally, the Complainant was requested to arrange a tow truck, at their own expense, so that the vehicle could be removed from where it was being stored.

In yet another complaint, Complainant’s motorbike was confiscated in July 2022 during a traffic control. As Complainant could not produce the paperwork for the vehicle at the time, it was confiscated by the police. When Complainant went to collect the vehicle at the police station with the required paperwork, however, the motorbike could not be found. Until present (February 2023) the vehicle has not been returned to the Complainant.

These complaints, which were received since the start of this year, as well as previous complaints, are very concerning. Pursuant to the adagium, ‘once is chance, twice is a coincidence, third time’s a pattern,’ and considering that the core of the complaints is a matter of good governance, and in the general interest of the public, the Ombudsman has resolved to conduct a systemic investigation regarding the motor vehicle confiscation policy of the KPSM/OM.

The public is encouraged to visit the Ombudsman’s office if their vehicle has been unjustly confiscated and is experiencing challenges to recover the said vehicle.

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