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Anti-Crime Task Force Claims Significant First Week

Oct. 15, 2004 — The Anti-Crime Task Force, a newly formed initiative of the V.I. Police Department in collaboration with federal law enforcement agencies, is claiming "significant" results in its first week of operations.
"We're working to make sure our community is safe," Elvin Fahie, deputy chief of police for the St. Thomas district, said during a press briefing Friday.
On a table before Fahie lay packages of drugs and several weapons confiscated by the task force on St. Thomas.
According to the police official, 1,678.3 grams of marijuana, 50.3 grams of cocaine powder and 64.1 grams of cocaine-based crack, with a street value of $25,000, were seized. Four guns, several knives and a night stick were also confiscated.
Doug Forbes, Brian Roberts, Jason Thomas, Ricardo Belagras, Jahfari Samuel, Jahmaine Henry, Jeffrey Turbe and Jarhi Grant, who had been in possession of the items on the table, were arrested by members of the task force on drug and weapons charges, Fahie said.
Territorial Police Chief Novelle Francis said the initiative was territorywide. However, Francis would not give results of the programs on St. Croix or St. John.
Francis said the task force received several calls from the community, which aided in the arrest of the individuals.
"We continue to elicit and ask for these calls to combat crime in the community," Francis said.
The task force, which comes with a "heavy price tag," is being funded in part by Project Safe Neighborhood. Members of the Drug Enforcement Agency; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area; and several members of the Special Operations Unit of the Police Department comprise the task force.
"We came together collectively to put together a combative plan to fight crime in the territory," Francis said. "The violent crimes we have seen over the last few weeks will not be tolerated."
Francis would not specify the total cost of the task force, but said it was "ongoing," so a total figure has not yet been derived.
"There is a lot of overtime funding that is necessary for this initiative," Francis said. He added that the police officers from various units within the Police Department selected for the task force have to be paid the overtime for working on the initiative in addition to their regular jobs. Also, several officers from St. Croix were brought over to St. Thomas to participate in the task force's busts and these officers had to be housed and fed.
"We continue to steal from Peter to pay Paul," Francis said.
Police Commissioner Elton Lewis said the department is continuing in its efforts at recruiting, although it faces challenges there. He said out of 100 applicants, 60 had to be disqualified because they did not meet the stringent qualifications required of police officers. Those who qualified still have to go through various testing, which will probably result in five new officers, Lewis said.
Lewis said he is seeking to implement polygraph testing for all entry-level officers and the use of lateral transfer, which will allow him to recruit officers from police departments in other jurisdictions.
However, Lewis said he faces two challenges in implementing lateral transfer: the collective bargaining units, who strongly oppose it, and lack of legislation for its approval. Lewis said his legal counsel is currently drafting legislation to be presented to the 26th Legislature.
Lewis said he is also looking at establishing a Police Command School for ongoing training of police officers.
"These things are not going to happen overnight," Lewis said. "But these are some of the initiatives we're looking into."
J.J. Estemac, vice president of the V.I. Retired Police Officers, told Lewis that VIRPO has offered its services to the VIPD but has not had any response.
"Even though we're retired, we're still concerned about law enforcement," Estemac said. Lewis said he is willing to meet with the group.
In response to a question on the 25th Legislature's approval of a bill creating a Law Enforcement Review Commission, Lewis said if the governor enacts the legislation he will welcome the commission.
During hearings on the bill, Lewis had expressed his opposition to the commission, saying the Police Department had an Internal Affairs Bureau in place to handle the tasks of the commission. (See "Police Oppose Provisions of Law Enforcement 'Omnibus Act'").
Lewis warned Friday, "I can see difficult times ahead with this commission."

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