V.I. Police Department St. John Deputy Chief Darren Foy met with more than 20 St. John residents and business owners to discuss St. John crime Friday, May 22 — and he gave them his cellular telephone number while urging them to call him anytime.
“The purpose of this meeting is to try to get a plan in place, a better process for communication,” said meeting organizer Helen Simon, chairperson of the island’s Citizens Integration Team. ‘‘If we don’t put a control on this, tourism is going to suffer.”
“What can be done by business owners to help the situation?” Simon asked Deputy Chief Foy.
“As a property owner, what rights do I have?” one downtown landlord and businessman asked.
Deputy Chief Foy asked the group to individually detail their concerns and they took advantage of the opportunity.
“We have the usual crack problem,” said longtime Cruz Bay business owner Albert Willis. “It got a little bit cleaned up, but they have trickled back in.”
After enforcement efforts which tore down a makeshift house on a vacant lot near Wharfside Village, a group of homeless people have moved onto another neighboring property, Deputy Chief Foy told the business owners.
“They have moved onto private property,” Foy explained. They have permission of the property owner to be there, he added.
Open Drug Dealing
Wharfside Village business owners complained of drug dealers operating openly in the waterfront shopping area across from Larry’s Landing bar and restaurant.
“A little more police presence could make them move on,” one Wharfside business owner said.
“There should be patrols every shift, every day,” said Foy, who asked all those at the meeting to call him personally with complaints and concerns.
“Wherever there is a hot spot, just let me know,” the Deputy Chief added.
“The biggest problem we have is Larry’s Landing, but that guy doesn’t want to cooperate,” said Foy who promised there will be continued enforcement action in that area.
“I’m going to keep it vague so when the operation comes down there will be surprise,” Foy told the group of mostly Cruz Bay business owners.
More Cameras, Lighting
Cameras and lighting were a big part of the morning’s conversation as the business owners discussed private and public security cameras and how police could crack down on crime in Cruz Bay.
“On my surveillance tapes they are selling to locals and tourists,” explained one business owner about the Cruz Bay drug traffic.
“I see them do the exchange,” added another business owner. “My guests are scared. Mine is a family restaurant.”
“We have a lot of problems where we are,” said another restaurant owner. “We have seen response time improved.”
“We have called the police and the response has been good,” added another restaurateur who said police had taken several reports, “but both police reports were lost.”
“There is drug dealing going on all day,” she added. “They sell drugs right on the tables (when the restaurant is closed).”
“The same guy who stands there everyday is the guy you want,” added another business owner.
“But, those guys know where the cameras are,” Foy interjected.
Drug Dogs Soon Come
The VIPD is in the process of adding police dogs “for everything — guns, drugs and everything,” and one will be deployed to St. John, Foy said.
“I think we should revisit the lighting,” CIT chairperson Simon said of efforts to improve lighting in town.
“The park needs to be lit up more,” agreed one business owner who said there also was a need for “more lighting to the ferry dock.”
One longtime island business owner tried to put the problem in perspective.
“We’ve had problems with crime for all the years I’ve been here,” said the Cruz Bay business and property owner. “Sometimes it gets really, really bad.”
“The answer has always been foot patrols,” the businesswoman added. “They were everywhere and it truly helped.”
“If every night there is a policeman moving them around, if there is a foot patrol, we have a chance of stopping these terrible incidents,” she said in reference to two recent serious assaults
“It is nothing new; this has always been an issue,” she added. “This is too small of an island. It hurts all of us.”
“This community is ready to help,” added another business owner.
“Preventing crime is a lot cheaper than solving a crime,” said a business owner. “It is also 100 percent effective.”