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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, February 5, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesCoki Cleanup Plan to Include Temporary Vendor Shutdown

Coki Cleanup Plan to Include Temporary Vendor Shutdown

While officials continue to work on a broader crime-fighting strategy for the territory, Gov. John deJongh Jr. unveiled plans Thursday for a targeted cleanup of Coki Point beach, which includes shutting down vendor operations in the area for 10 days so some immediate work can get done.
At a press conference held a week and a half after two teenagers — one a local male and a 14-year-old tourist — were killed on the roadway leading to the beach, deJongh said the area’s vendors and businesses have already agreed to cooperate with cleanup efforts, which begins Aug. 2 and involves everyone from Housing, Parks and Recreation (HPR) to the Waste Management Authority.
Among other things, HPR, with help from Public Works, will be fixing the fence surrounding the beach, doing landscaping in "key areas," removing debris, picking a vendor to reconstruct the bathrooms, put up portable bathrooms and clean up the roadsides.

DeJongh said he’s tasked HPR Commissioner St. Claire N. Williams with coming up with a cost estimate for completing the long-awaited and much discussed vendor pavilion and boardwalk so some funding can be identified for the project.
Responding to complaints from business owners in the area, the governor added that Justice officials will begin drafting legislation prohibiting barkers on public roadways and beaches, while Waste Management will be finding spaces for trash bins and scheduling removal times.
Further, the governor said he’s going to look at purchasing the section of the beach — half of the graveyard and a portion of the surrounding area — that’s privately owned and in the long run include it and all the other beaches, in a territorial park system that’s already been created, but still needs a structure and funding source.
Events like the July 12 shootout also give officials the opportunity to look at ways to improve — including finding out who did their job and who didn’t, deJongh added. He said has ordered "a prompt and thorough inquiry into police performance at the time of the events last week," with particular focus on whether any advance planning could have been done to prevent the incident and how officers responded during and after, along with the "preparation and performance" of VIPD’s Special Operations Bureau.
"Once I have the results of this inquiry, I will be able — with the participation and advice of the commissioner — to decide what changes are needed, who might be a candidate for reassignment or re-training, and similar actions," deJongh said.
Police Commissioner Novelle Francis Jr. and Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty met with regional cruise officials at the end of last week to present, among other things, a strategic safety and security plan, which Francis also outlined during Thursday’s press conference. Officials already know many of the crimes committed locally are retaliatory in nature, stemming from gang or turf conflicts, so what this incident also brought to light was the need to enhance safety measures for tourists, he said.
Police, officials and even national media reports have continued to point out that the 14-year-old victim, Lizmarie Perez Chaparro, was not an intended target, while the shootout, which police have said was quite possibly retaliatory in nature, was not linked to Coki’s crime problems. Both Francis and deJongh said Thursday that, other than the homicide rates, statistics show other part-one crimes (rape, burglary, assault, among others) are down, while the department so far this year has had a 65-percent arrest rate.
"To address this safety concern, and taking recent developments and intelligence into consideration, the VIPD has supplemented its Tourist Safety Plan," Francis said. "The main components of the plan include deployment of the Special Operations Team, enhanced police patrol and targeted camera surveillance."
Overall, tourist attractions will see more of a police presence, with officers patrolling on foot, bike and scooter and not "sitting in their cars doing nothing," he added. All-terrain vehicles will be sent out to the beach and other secluded areas, while K-9 units will also be used for targeted patrols.
The Special Ops team has been reorganized and will handle "unique security needs for specific occasions and locales," personnel from all over the police department and law enforcement officers from other government agencies will be pulled for special initiatives, Francis said.
Other plans include: beefing up traffic enforcement to cut down on traffic congestion in the area and create staging areas for safaris and taxis; upgrading and buying new surveillance cameras for tourist areas; and assessing the cost of installing environmentally sensitive lighting in beach and nesting areas.

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