Police lights blared and traffic through Cruz Bay came to a halt on Friday evening, November 30, as a slew of federal and local agencies raided several businesses in town, confiscated drugs and took 14 undocumented people into custody.
The raids on Nature’s Nook, Cap’s Place and a t-shirt vendor near Nature’s occurred around 7 p.m. when law enforcement officials closed the road to Cap’s at the Connections intersection for more than an hour.
At Cap’s Place, officials confiscated 11 packets of cocaine, eight packets of crack cocaine and illegal Puerto Rican lottery tickets, and took 13 men and one woman — all undocumented immigrants — into custody, according to V.I. Police Department St. John Deputy Chief Darren Foy.
Illegals Turned Over to ICE
“The illegal immigrants were from the Dominican Republic and one person was from the Lesser Antilles,” said Foy. “They were turned over to ICE.”
Officials did not find any drugs or guns at Nature’s, but did confiscate several knives, he explained.
Cap’s, Nature’s and a t-shirt vendor next to Nature’s all were cited for licensing violations, Deputy Chief Foy added.
“There were fire violations and licensing violations at Nature’s and Cap’s,” said Foy. “The lady that sells t-shirts next to Nature’s didn’t have a license either. We fined the businesses for those infractions.”
The raids were conducted by a task force comprised of officials from the Fire Department, Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, Waste Management Authority, Department of Planning and Natural Resources’ Environmental Health, V.I. Lottery, Drug Enforcement Bureau, V.I. Police Department, Federal U.S. Marshals and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
One Day After Homicide
The task force operation came one day after the island’s third homicide of the year, when Alston Smith, 22, was gunned down in the Pine Peace area on Thursday evening, November 29.
Michael Abraham, 21, later turned himself in and confessed to the murder, but was released by V.I. Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall the next day.
The timing of the Cruz Bay enforcement action, however, had nothing to do with the homicide, Foy explained.
“Friday night’s raid was a planned operation which had been planned for several weeks,” said Foy. “That was the date that we executed the operation. It had nothing to do with the homicide.”
Illegal Activity Reported
A number of complaints about illegal activity reported to St. John Administrator Leona Smith prompted the operation, according to Foy.
“The operations originally started because of information brought to the administrator’s office and to the VIPD,” Foy said. “We had gotten complaints from various people about illegal activities happening around the Cruz Bay area. We got together and decided to create the task force to combat some of the problems Cruz Bay is having.”
The action is an example of the new leadership on island’s dedication to cleaning up Cruz Bay, Foy added.
“There will be a lot more proactive measures done on the part of the VIPD and other law enforcement agencies to try to make this place a better place,” he said.
VIPD Commissioner James McCall lauded the operation in a prepared statement.
“I’d like to commend all the local and federal agencies who participated and made this — the first of many similar operations — a success,” McCall said in the statement. “We will continue to use every resource available to us to combat any illicit activity in the territory.”
The operation also reflected Governor John deJongh’s commitment to flushing out illegal immigrants and drugs, according to a Government House press release.
“The success of such law enforcement initiatives is based on careful planning and coordination between agencies of both the territorial and federal governments and is reflective of my administration’s commitment to stem the tide of illegal drug and crime activity in the Virgin Islands,” deJongh in the statement.