11-year-old Presses Officials on Gang Activities

Serious questions from a 11- year-old St. Johnian highlighted the second in a series of deJongh administration St. John neighborhood meetings at the Gifft Hill School on Thursday, May 21.

Gov. John P. deJongh Jr. was out of the territory for the meeting, but Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis led the delegation of public officials meeting with Estate Bethany, Gift Hill and Pastory residents.

The typical exchange of complaints, and concerns about roads, traffic, speed bumps and concrete spills from the crowd of more than 50 neighborhood residents brought the typical platitudes and explanations from the dozen officials in attendance.

Guy H. Benjamin School fifth grader Jah-Haille Bruce took his turn at the microphone and identified himself before addressing VIPD Deputy Chief Darren Foy.

“What are you guys going to do about the gang violence?” asked Bruce — whose grandfather, island teacher and musician Eddie Bruce, had addressed the officials earlier in the meeting about neighborhood traffic safety concerns.

“The VIPD and the Education Department are forming an alliance,” responded Deputy Chief Darren Foy. “We’re trying to develop some new laws for the legislature to enact.”

“The VIPD is paying real attention to that,” added VIPD Deputy Commissioner Novelle Francis. “The Governor has taken this up as a priority.”

“There are certain areas of St. John where (gang) colors are being worn” and there are incidents of spray painting of gang-related graffiti, the Deputy Commissioner admitted.

“I challenge everyone here today,” added Lt. Gov. Francis. “The parents have to take care of the home. It starts from home. Parents take charge of your children.”

Their young inquisitor wasn’t completely satisfied with the answers, so Bruce pressed the officials with a follow-up question on what they could do other than cleaning up gang graffiti.

“What do you guys do after that?” the young man asked — with polite persistence.

Jah-Haille was assured there was legislation in the works which would better address the problem.