In testimony St. John residents have heard repeated for decades, the V.I. Police Department is short of officers and St. John staffing is suffering along with St. Thomas, VIPD officials told the V.I. Senate Committee on Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice hearing on Wednesday, March 26.
VIPD St. Thomas-St. John Chief Capt. Rodney Querrard declined to answer specific questions about the exact number of officers traveling to St. John from St. Thomas for duty — as VIPD officials have declined to do publicly for years, saying they didn’t want to tip off the criminal element to staffing levels.
But the veteran police officer acknowledged there continues to be staffing and recruitment problems.
“As for St. John, we’re short of officers over here, but it’s not only on St. John,” Capt. Querrard said. “The police department is making every effort possible to fill the slots.”
“Out of 200 to 300 applicants, we ended up with 15 candidates,” he said of the current Police Academy class. “We only have 15 in the Police Academy and I wish we had 50.”
Auxiliary Police Reforming
While 45-50 people have signed up for the auxiliary police force, Querrard said he was not sure how many had applied from St. John.
St. Johnian Ronnie Jones asked Querrard to provide information for St. John residents to sign up for the auxiliary force.
St. Johnian Joan Thomas, who told St. John Chief Darren Foy she did not recognize him and hadn’t seen him on her daily walks to Cruz Bay, encouraged police officers on duty in Cruz Bay to “walk and be visible,” instead of riding around town in vehicles.
“In the meantime, the people of St. John are not becoming familiar with the police,” Thomas said.
Guns Laws “Too Soft”
In response to Querrard’s report that anti-crime initiatives have resulted in the seizure of almost 100 illegal guns, Thomas asked, “where are they getting all these guns?”
“That is just a drop in the bucket,” Capt. Querrard admitted. “Unfortunately there are a lot of them out there. I have been seeing some serious problems.”
“We do have a lot of illegal stuff going on,” Capt. Querrard said. “Once there is a demand, they will find ways.”
“We do have local people bringing guns into the territory frequently,” the St. Thomas-St. John chief said.
“The law as it relates to guns is too soft,” Querrard said. “We have way too many guns in the V.I. We have more and more weapons coming here by different means.”
Coral Bay Staffing
Coral Bay resident Yvonne Wells recalled a ground breaking in Coral Bay for a new police substation, and reminded VIPD officials the mobile unit there under utilized.
“I know we have police presence, but I would like to see the mobile unit used since we will not be seeing a building for a little while,” said Wells.
“The mobile unit will be used more frequently, but it will not be manned daily,” Capt. Querrard responded.
“There are two detectives assigned to St. John,” the St. Thomas-St. John Chief said in response to a question about staffing. “One is out on maternity leave.”
The islands forensics officer is a Sergeant assigned to St. John, Capt. Querrard said in response to another resident. The “forensics tech” person has been temporarily reassigned to St. Thomas.