If residents of the Virgin Islands want to know the main factor that caused the number of homicides in the territory to fall so sharply in 2013, all they need to do is look in the mirror, Police Commissioner Rodney F. Querrard said Tuesday.
"When it comes to crime, it’s a community problem, and it takes a community effort to resolve the problem," Querrard said in a telephone interview.
Official numbers are not yet available, but homicides as tracked by the Source fell more than 40 percent, from 58 in 2012 to 34 in 2013.
Querrard said the biggest single factor in that decline was the willingness of the community to report suspicious and dangerous activities.
"We’ve been asking for community support and we’ve been getting it," he said. "Police officers cannot be everywhere all the time. When a crime occurs, someone in the community knows something, and that can be the information police need to solve a crime."
And not just solve a crime that’s already happened, Querrard added. Sometimes, the right information at the right time can stop a crime or prevent something minor from spilling over into a violent explosion.
"If somebody in the general public, say at Market Square, if somebody drives by and sees a heated argument and it looks like it might get physical, if they call us we can get there before things go too far. That is a big deterrent," he said.
He cited the motto of the Crime Stoppers group, "If you see something, say something."
Querrard said the department has also been having success in getting guns off the streets and interrupting the flow of weapons into the territory. Without having the official figures at hand, the commissioner estimated more than 100 guns were seized by officers in the territory. He said that working in conjunction with such federal agencies as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. Postal Service, Customs and Border Patrol and others, law enforcement has been able to slow the flow of firearms, intercepting them before they ever get here.
Querrard added that there are several investigations under way, but he wasn’t able to discuss them yet because they were still ongoing.
The commissioner said the V.I. Police Department’s official inventory of all crimes in the territory in 2013 is not yet complete, but he said tentatively that crime in most categories went down last year, not just homicides.
"Murders, there was definitely a serious decrease. Burglaries decreased. What went up was assaults," he said, and that was particularly irksome to him.
"I’d like to see a drastic drop in assaults," he said.