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Police Presence Will Spread Via New Mobile Substations

April 20, 2007 — Police will have a greater presence in some of the territory's hard-to-reach areas thanks to the purchase of three new mobile substations, which will hit the streets during the upcoming Carnival season.
Police officials unveiled their recently acquired wheels during a press conference Friday at the V.I. Housing Authority offices on St. Thomas. An appropriation approved by the Legislature more than a year ago funded the substations.
The appropriation, sponsored by Sen. Louis P. Hill, earmarked $330,000 for the three substations, which will be distributed between St .Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. On St. Thomas, the unit will stay at the Housing Authority Offices when not in use.
"It's a real joy to see something that was envisioned over a year ago materialize and be put to use," Hill said during Friday's press conference. "And my wish is that the Police will use these stations to go to areas in the community where there is a need for them."
The department plans to do just that, said Police Commissioner James McCall, deploying the mobile units to various housing communities and neighborhoods on the east and west ends of St. Thomas.
"We plan on going to areas where there is not much of a law-enforcement presence, such as Bordeaux, or Hull Bay in the north. Residents in the Red Hook area have also expressed an interest in having a substation nearby," McCall explained, adding that the vehicles, once deployed, are equipped to function like a regular police station.
"We can do just as much here as we can do at zone command," he said. "The substations are totally self-contained, have outlets for computers and we have the manpower to staff it. And once we take the substations to respond to a certain complaint, we will stay and man that area for up to 24 hours, based on the need."
Reports can also be taken from both inside and outside the vehicle, McCall added.
The vehicles each have four cameras and an internal surveillance center, along with an area designed to hold and transport prisoners. "Right now we're also on generator power, but we can hook up the vehicle to WAPA's system or telephone lines on the outside," explained Lt. Melvin Venzen as he gave the group a tour.
A solar panel attached to the outside of the substation is designed to keep the vehicle's batteries charged at all times, so officers have no delays when called to respond to an emergency, said St Thomas-St. John District Chief of Police Milton Petersen.
Equipped with certain amenities, such as a working bathroom, refrigerator, microwave and air-conditioning, the substation can "comfortably" hold about three officers, Venzen added.
Officers traveling in the substation will rotate based on the nature of a particular assignment or complaint, Petersen said.
"And anything additional we need can be added," Petersen said, explaining that officers still have to customize the vehicles to conform to local requirements. "We're going to continue to look at the specs and see whether improvements need to be made."
The department also has to test out how the substations will perform on the territory's rough terrain and narrow roads, Petersen said. "We're going to work on knowing the locations, and we will have a plan in place prior to deployment," he said.
On St. Croix, a similar press conference will be held on May 2, McCall said.
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