911 System Upgraded on St. Croix; Territory-wide Improvements in the Works

July 4, 2007 — The V.I. Police Department has upgraded components of its 911 communications structure and is one step closer to a fully functional and integrated emergency-response system, officials say.
A plan to automate critical tasks done by the department has been developed and is ready to be implemented, according to VIPD MIS/Communications Director Ofari Benjamin.
The 911 system is a critical function of the VIPD, said Assistant Commissioner Novelle Francis in a recent telephone interview: "It starts the ball rolling with the criminal justice system."
St. Croix is now functioning with a new 911 system component — computer-aided dispatch (CAD) Smart Cop software. This program has moved dispatching from a paper system to a computerized record-management system (RMS). Additionally, mobile computer terminals (MCT) are scheduled to be installed in police units by the end of the year, according to Benjamin. This upgrade will instantly network patrol units with the dispatch station and provide seamless communication.
Francis credited the deJongh administration for providing the department with an unprecedented budget. "We have been at this for a long time," Francis said of the upgrades.
At a recent town meeting, Francis thanked the administration for making "public safety a priority" in the Virgin Islands by giving the department a $59 million budget. "No other time in the history of the Police Department have we been given this amount," Francis said. "We have no excuse why we can't be productive and be able to serve the community."
Financing to purchase the 911 and accompanying radio-communications system has been approved through the Public Finance Administration and will be released on Oct. 1. The purchase will also bring online a system to integrate and allow for the exchange of data between the Bureau of Corrections and the VIPD.
The department’s plan also addresses insufficient radio coverage and the antiquated radio-communications system. The VIPD has purchased five towers to augment present capabilities to increase radio coverage throughout the Virgin Islands. The St. Croix tower sites include Cotton Valley, St. Georges and one atop the Hannah's Rest police station. On St. Thomas, the sites include Fortuna, Flag Hill, Benner Hill, Mountain Top, Crown Mountain and Mammey Peak.
The present antiquated Motorola system is scheduled to be replaced with a more reliable Flyde MPT trunking system. The new system is encrypted and cannot be scanned by the public or criminals, Benjamin said. The new communication devices allow interfacing with other agencies, which is essential in case of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, Benjamin said.
The tower upgrade and integration of the new radio system is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, according to the plan. Police personnel will undergo training to increase their technological awareness while increasing productivity through modern technology.
Also included in the upgrades is the renovation of the St. Thomas and St. Croix 911 dispatch centers. They will be upgraded with new modular-seating units, increased security and networking capabilities. Conceptual plans are completed and awaiting final review and approval.
The modernization of the VIPD was outlined at the June monthly meeting of the St. Croix district Citizens Integration Team (CIT). Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis attended that meeting and pledged the support of the administration. CIT operates on all three islands and is an integral part of the department's five-year strategic plan.
The St. Croix group, chaired by Judi Fricks, has advocated for and gathered information relative to an upgraded 911 system for more than a year, as well as spearheading other police/community initiatives.
Fricks acknowledged the importance of a larger budget. "With the increased funding provided by the Gov. John deJongh administration, residents can look forward to the department becoming fully automated and better prepared to fight the war on crime," she said.
The CIT is the "eyes and ears of the department," Francis said. He continued, “They identify issues of concern to the community and bring those concerns to the commissioner."
Police Commissioner James McCall thanked members of his department who have lent their expertise and dedication to the improvement of the VIPD. He also thanked the civilians of the VIPD Citizen's Integration Team for their input.
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