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HomeNewsArchivesFYI: Gov't. Needs Police and Firefighters on St. John

FYI: Gov't. Needs Police and Firefighters on St. John

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March 6, 2007 – Meetings convened on all three islands to review operations of agencies handling public safety and homeland security concluded Monday on St. John.
"These meetings were extremely enlightening," Senator Carmen Wesselhoft said. "We now have a starting point and can work to fill some of the gaps we've identified."
Wesselhoft, Chairwoman of the 27th Legislature's Committee on Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice, indicated that these meetings were a critical first step.
"The news wasn't necessarily good," she said. "But I am ready to do whatever it takes to assist this Administration to fight crime and protect our citizens."
During Monday's meeting, the Acting Police Commissioner James McCall acknowledged that St. John was, in fact, a "transshipment center for narcotics" in addition to being a popular entry point for illegal aliens.
Senators learned that many crimes on St. John remain unsolved and that this is due in part to the lack of a forensic detective on island. There are no investigators on St. John from midnight until 8 a.m. There is also no traffic unit assigned to St. John.
Wesselhoft, who is co-sponsoring a bill that will fund recruitment of additional officers, said that St. John must not be short changed.
"The fact of the matter is that St. John has realized tremendous growth in recent years, but there has not been a corresponding investment in public safety," she said.
Both Fire Services and the Police Department say they need applicants from St. John in order to be truly equipped for an emergency on that island. "This is another case where the increase in the cost of living on St. John is very hurtful to the entire community," she said. "We need fire fighters and police officers willing to live on St. John, but the average public servant cannot afford to live here. We simply must find ways to make land and houses on St. John available to middle class Virgin Islanders."
The Senator-at-Large was particularly concerned about the completion of the long awaited Coral Bay sub-station. Officials from VIPD testified that the lease was on its way to Government House for signature and that they were in the process of putting together the required CZM permit application.
St. John Fire Chief Winifred Powell testified that lack of water was a major obstacle for firefighters, particularly in Coral Bay where there is no potable water. There are 8 working fire hydrants in Cruz Bay, she said, but this is not enough to truly cover the expanding town. Powell also said that the department was in desperate need of equipment and training in fighting shipboard fires.
Wesselhoft said she would push for a Deputy Commissioner of Police to be named for St. John.
"This is required by law," she said. "The failure to name a deputy commissioner is likely an oversight. I have provided officials with a copy of the V.I. Code and hope they will act promptly on this matter."
The Committee on Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice will convene again on March 28 in order to take testimony on proposed legislation.

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