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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 14, 2024


Police and federal agents arrested nine people on St. John over the long Emancipation Day/Fourth of July weekend as part of a joint operation designed to curb street-level drug dealing in the Cruz Bay area.
According to Police Chief Jose Garcia, the sweep, dubbed Operation Independence, was planned and executed with the help of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's resident agent-in-charge, Richard Holmes.
"Rich Holmes approached us, and we had a discussion about some joint operations because we're all concerned about the little drug problems we've been having," Garcia said.
He said disrupting the activity of street drug dealers was also intended as a deterrent to higher-level distributors who supply them.
Law enforcement officials said they plan to prosecute the nine — as well as an additional group picked up on St. Thomas near the Red Hook ferry dock earlier in the week — under a federal law that provides for stiff penalties for drug sales conducted within 1,000 feet of a school.
Holmes said the Red Hook arrests took place within 1,000 feet of the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, and the Cruz Bay busts occurred within that distance of the Julius E. Sprauve School and directly across the street from the Clarice Thomas Annex.
"Even if there's a first offense, they're looking at some time," Holmes said. "We don't want them to think they can be so brazen as to go and sell drugs wherever they want."
Garcia said future joint operations are planned. The quantity of drugs confiscated during the weekend sweep was not significant, he said, but the number of persons arrested in a single operation in Cruz Bay was.
Participating agencies included the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the Police Blue Lightning Strike Force and Special Operations Bureau; V.I. Housing Authority Police; and the offices of the V.I. Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney.

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