March 20, 2003 – Paul L. Gimenez, the governor's chief legal counsel, has a new role in the administration, chair of the Project Safe Neighborhoods executive committee.
According to a Government House release, the project is geared to creating safe neighborhoods in the territory through community-based programs aimed at combating the use of guns.
"We took the best of gun initiatives from around the country," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Wallace, the law-enforcement coordinator for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the territory. He said the program got under way about a year ago and is spearheaded by his office.
"It brings everyone together from all agencies to brainstorm and strategize," Wallace said.
Wallace said that 21st Century Solutions, a company in Silver Spring, Maryland, has a contract to set up a V.I. crimes database to assist with investigations and analysis. The federally funded contract for $150,000 over three years calls for the company to hire local staff, he said, as "we want to make sure the money is kept here."
Also, Wallace said, the executive committee intends to fund the acquisition and maintenance of a ballistics testing machine which will allow investigators to determine locally if the same gun is used in multiple crimes. Analysis of the information is via a national database, he said.
The committee also plans to fund a campaign to let the public know that all firearms-related crimes will be met with strict enforcement and certain punishment.
Wallace said his office has contracted the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce to conduct a media and community outreach campaign on the perils of using guns, at a cost of $170,000 over two years.
Another area of outreach is funding of a program to help territorial and federal law-enforcement officials understand, prosecute and prevent firearm-related crimes.
The Government House release said that U.S. Attorney David Nissman, Police Chief Novelle Francis, former police Chief Delroy Richards, Assistant Attorney General Marie Drigo, police Detective Gregory Bennerson and others from the federal Justice Department serve on the committee. Gimenez did not return telephone calls requesting more information.
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