“Beginning the first of the month, we have been able to put an extra 10 or 15 people on the street between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. daily,” he said.
He added that the initiative had encountered some resistance from officers, who did not like working the odd hours, but said quelling the recent rash of burglaries that have struck the island was an overriding priority.
He did not indicate how long the extra patrols would last.
Parris’s presence at the meeting alone was a somber reminder of how serious the situation is. Parris is filling in for Police Chief Christopher Howell, who is still recuperating after he and Police Officer Elsworth Jones were shot in August while responding a burglary at Eat at Cane Bay.
The group of about 20 Rotarians in attendance were polite to Parris in their questioning, but not entirely complementary.
Clifford Christian said he believed the police had turned a blind eye to crime in Frederiksted and allowed areas of the town to become effectively lawless. He encouraged Parris to do more during his time as chief than his predecessors had done.
“Be impressive. Do what the others didn’t do,” he said. “Frederiksted is not hard to control, but the policemen are not doing what they’re supposed to do.”
Parris said the Virgin Islands Police Department was currently undergoing a “manpower problem,” but hopefully it would be resolved in the near future.
He told the crowd that there were 10 or 11 cadets close to graduating and that the government had given the department permission to hire as many as 77 new police officers.
“We recognize there is a need and we are going to fill these positions by hook or by crook,” he said. “In the interim, we have to do what we have to do.”
Parris said the department was constantly instituting new crime fighting initiatives, such as the recent crackdown on copper theft. Four scrap metal dealers caught buying pilfered copper were shut down in the sweep.
“I can’t tell you we’ve stopped it,” he said. “That would be a big task. But we’re slowing it down.”
Parris concluded by urging the community to support the VIPD and report criminal activity in their neighborhood. He also promised that his department would do its best to serve the community.
“The police department recognizes the things we need to do,” he said. “And we intend to do a lot more.”