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VIPD Warn Motorists About Criminals Posing as Police Officers

May 18, 2006 – Police are cautioning residents against stopping on dark roads if they are suspicious that they're being approached by someone other than a V.I. Police officer. This following incidents in which one woman was carjacked by men posing as police officers in the East End area.
Police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Hannah said that car thieves used flashing red-and-blue lights on an unmarked vehicle to get the woman to believe that the stop was official. It was not. Hannah said motorists are familiar with VIPD vehicles and rather than stopping, should do one or all of the following: Call 911 to report being followed or get to the nearest 24-hour gas station or government building, such as a fire station, and blow their horns to draw attention.
"If an officer is stopping a car, he will call in to VIPD to let them know, and the 911 operator can tell you if it is a legitimate stop," Hannah said.
Territorial Police Chief Novelle Francis Jr. has scheduled a May 25 meeting with East End residents, Hannah said, but a place for the meeting has not yet been identified. Police will decide upon the meeting place shortly, he said.
Hannah said that the matter of people posing as officers is under investigation. "We have promising leads and that [the situation] has been quelled," he said when asked about the likelihood of more such incidents occurring.
However, he declined further comment, saying it would jeopardize the investigation.
In the first incident, a woman reported to police that she obeyed a flashing light on an unmarked car by stopping in the Rust-op-Twist area, believing the occupants to be police officers, but that she was robbed of her vehicle. There were no injuries, and the woman was able to hitch a ride with a passing motorist who drove her to the nearest police substation in Estate LaReine, where she reported the incident.
Hannah said that two other incidents were reported to police – one by a man who said that he was followed by a car with "flashing blue-and-red lights" near the Tide Village gas station. Hannah said that when the motorist realized that the car's occupants were not law enforcement personnel, he ran and hid in nearby brush. His car was not stolen, however.
In the third incident, a woman went to the Cotton Valley Fire Station to report that she was being followed by a car with flashing blue-and-red lights, Hannah said.
Law enforcement officials on the island, such as FBI and DEA agents, are often in plain clothes and unmarked cars, Hannah said. However, he urged residents to err on the side of caution before stopping.
He said that motorists who must drive in dark areas should do so with their car doors locked and windows closed. And, he said, if a driver is alone and stops, that person should open the window just enough to be heard and ask to see the person's identification. FBI and other federal law enforcement officers and all VIPD officers should have identification, Hannah said.
Hannah had a message for all residents, not just those on the East End.
"Take all necessary precautions that you must in order to stay safe," he said.
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