V.I. Police Department officials made good on a promise on Wednesday, March 4, when officers cleared a Cruz Bay encampment of temporary housing structures.
Street people have been erecting tents and lean-tos on a private lot next to St. John Car Rental across from the Mt. Carmel Catholic Church for years. After several residents complained about the area to VIPD Commissioner James McCall at an Open House at the Battery last month, officials vowed to take care of the problem.
VIPD officers made good on that promise on March 4 after obtaining permission from the property owner to clear the area, explained the department’s spokesperson Melody Rames.
“At 8 a.m. that morning, four police officers along with the deputy chief and people from the Department of Public Works went in there and went to the back where they actually saw three squatters sleeping,” said Rames. “The officers told the people to wake and leave and they vacated the area. Officers demolished the make-shift sheds.”
Officials spent four hours hauling trash out of the area, according to Rames.
“They were there until 12 p.m. and they removed four dump trucks full of debris,” she said. “Officers found a lot of drug paraphernalia. It was a big drug haven — they found a lot of small plastic bags used to package marijuana and crack cocaine.”
“You name it, it was there — broken chairs, wood, trash, just debris,” continued Rames.
The March 4 clean up was the VIPD’s first, but not the last, effort to clear out known squatter areas, Rames added.
“VIPD Deputy Chief Darren Foy said this isn’t the last time they will be cleaning out these areas,” said Rames. “Officials have already identified areas like that one in other parts of Cruz Bay and Coral Bay. Officers will be going out there and cleaning up those areas as well.”
Although previous clean ups of the area have eventually found the same people setting new lean-tos, VIPD officials mean business this time, according to Rames.
“Squatters will no longer be tolerated in that area or any other area,” she said. “The owner of the property gave police permission to arrest anyone on the property because no one is supposed to be there.”
“The owner of the property is going to clear out the brush so the area will be open from the hillside to the road so people can see straight through the woods,” Rames said. “The deputy police chief said these open drug markets will no longer be tolerated and these kinds of initiatives will be ongoing.”