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Outraged Governor Announces Anti-Crime Initiatives

March 20, 2009 – Outraged over a spate of crimes that took place over the last week, Gov. John deJongh Jr, outlined a number of broad-spectrum initiatives that are effective immediately.
"The events that we have witnessed from this past week have left many of our residents confused and worried," the governor said. "For my part, it has left me nothing short of outraged."
The governor announced the initiatives Thursday at Government House on St. Thomas. He spoke out about gang-related crimes and their impact on a number of specific neighborhoods and the territory at large.
The government response will reach far beyond the police department, he said, involving the Virgin Islands Housing Authority, the Department of Health, and a number of other agencies to enforce regulations that will make criminals and those that shelter them uncomfortable.
Initiatives include more pre-trial geographical restrictions for those out on bail and publicizing those restrictions so that the public can tell the police when they are violated, crackdowns on guns in public housing, revolving roadblocks territory-wide, educating parents on how to identify gang behavior in their children and closing bars and restaurants that are problem areas.
"We are fully aware of the recent “turf wars” that are under way on the islands," de Jongh said. "We are also aware of those hot spots, which include Kirwan Terrace, specific areas of Tutu and Contant, and Smith Bay here on St. Thomas as well as Mon Bijou, Grove Place, JFK Housing Community, Campo Rico, and Sion Farm on St. Croix."
Shootings in Tutu over the past weekend led to two arrests and police are still searching for others connected with the incident. (See "Two In Custody After Shootout With Police.")
Police hope that the community will continue to help with their tips.
"People in the community know bits and pieces, and can make contact with my office directly," St. Thomas Police Chief Rodney Querrard, Sr., said.
The governor acknowledged that the activity is not random, rather it is orchestrated retaliations and vendetta directed at specific individuals.
"We know many of those individuals who are responsible," the governor said. "Know that you are, and will continue to be targeted."
The governor has directed the attorney general to request the courts to strengthen the pre-trial release conditions for those repeat offenders and future offenders.
"Specifically, where participation in the turf wars is suspected, our prosecutors will ask for special release conditions forbidding those offenders from visiting or entering those neighborhoods that are involved in these turf fights," the governor said.
The public is also being asked to get involved in enforcing the bail conditions. Pre-trial conditions, including geographical restrictions on individuals will be published on the police department's website..
The governor asked the public to look at the website and contact the law enforcement immediately if they observe anyone violating the conditions of their pre-trial release.
"If you are a subject of concern to our law enforcement agencies and are released pre-trial, we will make sure that you are known," de Jongh said. "All in the territory will have access to the conditions of your release so they can assist law enforcement in assuring that these conditions are met … "If you are out on bail and found to violate any of them you will be re-arrested immediately."
The governor also said that specific nightclubs, restaurants and bars had been identified as problem areas and said that coordinated efforts through various government agencies would be used to close them.
"I intend to shut these places down," de Jongh said.
The governor also said he'd use various agencies to get guns out of public housing.
It is illegal for anyone to posses any firearm with in a Virgin Islands Housing Authority community, and this includes even licensed guns.
High-school type lockdown searches are not allowed in public housing properties, according to Attorney General Vincent Frazer, but his office will work closely with the V.I. Housing Authority to step up enforcement efforts of the ban on firearms in these communities. A conviction for a crime is not necessary for an eviction. An individual's involvement in criminal activity noted through the booking process is enough for the Housing Authority to begin the eviction process for the entire household., the attorney general said.
Those living in public housing with a household member with a firearm should notify the police department immediately or may have to suffer the consequences of the weapon's seizure, which can include eviction.
The governor explained that gangs trying to define their turf in schools are already being met with school lockdowns, like those conducted this past week at both Charlotte Amalie and Ivanna Eudora Kean High Schools (See "Cops Hunt Guns As High Schools Are Locked Down," ) and parent education (See "Boschulte School Meeting Gives Parents Gang Info After Assault.").
The governor urged parents to take greater responsibility with their minor children and to go through their book bags before they go to school. Parents should look for items like gang colors, knives and razors.
Tips coming from the community and through crime stoppers are increasing, both the governor and Police Commissioner James McCall acknowledged. They said that this year, more than 60 tips from the community helped to solve crimes, identify criminals and had led to arrests. Tips to Crime Stoppers that lead to arrests are rewarded in cash with no questions asked. Callers' identities remain entirely anonymous. Crime Stoppers can be contacted by phone at 800-222-8477. More information is available at the Crime Stoppers website.
The governer also asked the territory's religious leaders to ask their congregations to pray for peace in the community.

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