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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 14, 2024


May 18, 2002 – Declaring the Virgin Islands community would not be "held hostage to lawlessness and violence," Gov. Charles W. Turnbull announced unprecedented measures Friday to combat crime in the territory, which has recently escalated with three homicides on Mother's Day, a child-abuse death and reported rapes.
At the afternoon press conference, the governor said he is sending a bill to the Legislature to lower to 13 the age by which a minor may be prosecuted as an adult for murder. In a response to the recent rash of crimes committed by minors, he said, "My policy is, if you are old enough to commit an adult crime, then you should be prosecuted as an adult."
The V.I. Code states mininmum age as 14 for: "One of the following offenses, which would be a felony if committed by an adult: murder in the first degree or an attempt to do so; rape in the first degree or an attempt to do so; aggravated rape or an attempt to do so; possession or use of a firearm in the commission of a crime of violence irrespective of whether the minor has been previously adjudicated to be a delinquent."
The governor said he had directed Police Commissioner Franz Christian to enforce curfew laws directing minors to be off the streets by 10 p.m. and to organize and expand the operations of the School Security Bureau. He said he has asked Attorney General Iver Stridiron to draft a "sound loitering law" to counter drug deals being made on the streets.
Turnbull said he also has authorized Christian to suspend all police annual leave as he sees fit, and to use additional overtime.
The governor noted that he had sent legislation to the Senate earlier in the week appropriating $2.7 million from the General Fund to supply the Police Department with additional personnel and vehicles.
The 24th Legislature had appropriated funds for the same purpose, Turnbull said, "but the money was not there." Asked by a reporter later if the General Fund was sufficient for the purpose, Turnbull said. he would take the money from other areas "if needed to combat crime."
Last fall, Turnbull had announced that he hoped to bring 50 to 60 police officers out of retirement to beef up the force. Although he still is trying to implement the program, Christian said that so far only about eight retired officers have been put back on the force.
Turnbull cited President Bush's federal "Citizens Corps" program to be initiated throughout communities in all states and territories. "It can only be effective if citizens help our law enforcement officers," he said with a plea for people to step forward with information. He said the Law Enforcement Planning Commission will be drawing down on three years' worth of federal funds — about $5 million — earmarked for law enforcement initiatives and equipment. He also asked Stridiron to hire gun violence prosecutors to prosecute aggressively those using guns in the commission of a crime.
At times sounding emotional, the governor said, "Let us remember crime is first and foremost a community problem. We must acknowledge that we confront a small, ruthless bunch that mock our basic principles of honesty, respect for life, property and the rule of law. To them I say, we will not give in."
Turnbull was accompanied by Stridiron, Christian and Police Chief Novelle Francis at the press conference.
Hours after Turnbull's speech, residents of the Garden Street area held a prayer vigil and demonstration for Dariel Wheatley, believed to have been the unintended victim of a drive-by shooting on Mother's Day outside Forde's Laundromat on the street. Pastor Toi Smith of the International Gospel Center led about 60 neighbors, friends and concerned citizens in prayer. Sens. Lorraine Berry and Emmett Hansen II spoke at the gathering and offered condolences. Smith had spoken at the Legislature on behalf of neighborhood residents after two killings on Garden Street last year.

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