The federal government is sending the Virgin Islands Police Department more than $3.9 million for new police boats, Congressional Delegate Stacey E. Plaskett announced Tuesday.
The $3,984,000 Department of Justice grant comes to help purchase three new marine enforcement vessels, Plaskett said.
“The vessels will assist with the interdiction of drug-trafficking related criminal activity through the Virgin Islands as well as safety patrols through local waters, which have seen a significant uptick in recreational vessel traffic in recent years,” she said in a written statement.
Plans to bolster the U.S. Virgin Islands’ policing at sea comes as the U.S. Coast Guard considers ending its St. Croix marine operations. Coast Guard activity ebbed after the island’s south-shore oil refinery halted operations. With far fewer dangerous cargo escort operations needed, the Coast Guard planned to draw down its Boat Forces Detachment, leaving only a land-based Resident Inspection Station to examine cargo and ensure vessel seaworthiness on St. Croix.
In March, Admiral Linda Fagan, the Coast Guard commandant, met with Plaskett and agreed to revisit the decision, Plaskett said. Whether the Boat Force Detachment stays or not, Coast Guard officials in San Juan said the Virgin Islands would still be patrolled by boats and aircraft launched from Puerto Rico.
As a major route for drug and migrant smugglers and playground for countless pleasure boaters, patrolling the waters around the Virgin Islands was vital to the territory, Plaskett said.
“Marine-capable law enforcement is imperative to ensure the safety and protection of life and property of inhabitants and visitors of the United States Virgin Islands. I am proud of the work being done and look forward to VIPD’s continued marine patrols and improved intelligence gathering,” she said. “This grant is one of numerous fiscal year 2023 Community Project Funding requests that I and my team successfully included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023.”