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Wednesday, July 6, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesUSVI STILL A MAJOR PLAYER IN GLOBAL DRUG TRADE

USVI STILL A MAJOR PLAYER IN GLOBAL DRUG TRADE

The U.S. Virgin Islands continue to figure prominently in the international drug trade, particularly in the South America-to-North America smuggling route, according to a federal law enforcement official heading an anti-drug task force here.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Special Agent-in-Charge Richard Holmes, "Its mainly because of the waterways, which are a quick route to the United States from South America."
Holmes believes that lots of drugs, mainly cocaine, are passing through the islands.
Just as President Bill Clinton's recent trip to Colombia demonstrated that the war on drugs is still a national priority, so has the buildup of law enforcement in the territory demonstrated that the drug-related activity here is as much a regional priority. The Virgin Islands has been designated as a high-intensity drug trafficking area, or HIDTA, to which Holmes' task force has been assigned to pursue drug smugglers and to investigate all aspects of their operations.
Holmes heads the task force of federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard. The task force not only seizes illegal drugs and arrests smugglers and dealers, it also identifies assets which may be subject to forfeiture, including cash.
The HIDTA task force acknowledges that law enforcement seizures account for only a fraction of the illegal drugs which find their way through the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean into North America. Not only are resources limited, but the Virgin Islands alone account for miles and miles of un-patrolled shorelines. Moreover, seaports are easily accessible, and hundreds of thousands of travelers fly in and out each year.
Finding drugs and other evidence of the drug business, Holmes said is a big job.
"We monitor all aspects of the narcotics business here," he said. "From the boats that arrive here, to the airports to the overall impact of narcotics on island residents."
Taking down street-level drug dealers, he noted, is attacking the drug problem where a community is most vulnerable, at the point of use and addiction. "You can see the influence of drugs on the population of St. Thomas — the biggest problem here is the use of crack-cocaine and heroin," he said. Holmes suggested that tourists also feed off the narcotics trade in the islands.
In some communities, the loss of respect for law enforcement has come as the result of the corruptive influence of drug money, of which there is a great deal. St. Thomas should be thankful that corruption has not compromised the integrity of local law enforcement, which drew praise from the DEA special agent-in-charge.
"I have the utmost respect for local law enforcement here. We have worked alongside with them on many operations and given the size of the drug trade here and what we have observed, I must say that there is no corruption going on here," Holmes said.
What the HIDTA task force and all law enforcement would like to see is a public more willing to cooperate with those on the front lines of the war on illegal drugs.
Holmes readily acknowledged the reasons people are not comfortable with going against local drug dealers, but they do not change the fact that public cooperation is necessary.
"Public cooperation is needed and makes the job easier for all of us, however, I can understand the reluctance (residents) feel to come forward," Holmes said. But he admits that the cooperation of the community can yield far greater results.
There are indications that law enforcement is making progress against illegal drug smugglers, although Holmes admitted that it is going to take time to see any real difference. but indicators such as seizures, arrests and convictions, he said, are encouraging.

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The U.S. Virgin Islands continue to figure prominently in the international drug trade, particularly in the South America-to-North America smuggling route, according to a federal law enforcement official heading an anti-drug task force here.
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Special Agent-in-Charge Richard Holmes, "Its mainly because of the waterways, which are a quick route to the United States from South America."
Holmes believes that lots of drugs, mainly cocaine, are passing through the islands.
Just as President Bill Clinton's recent trip to Colombia demonstrated that the war on drugs is still a national priority, so has the buildup of law enforcement in the territory demonstrated that the drug-related activity here is as much a regional priority. The Virgin Islands has been designated as a high-intensity drug trafficking area, or HIDTA, to which Holmes' task force has been assigned to pursue drug smugglers and to investigate all aspects of their operations.
Holmes heads the task force of federal and local law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard. The task force not only seizes illegal drugs and arrests smugglers and dealers, it also identifies assets which may be subject to forfeiture, including cash.
The HIDTA task force acknowledges that law enforcement seizures account for only a fraction of the illegal drugs which find their way through the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean into North America. Not only are resources limited, but the Virgin Islands alone account for miles and miles of un-patrolled shorelines. Moreover, seaports are easily accessible, and hundreds of thousands of travelers fly in and out each year.
Finding drugs and other evidence of the drug business, Holmes said is a big job.
"We monitor all aspects of the narcotics business here," he said. "From the boats that arrive here, to the airports to the overall impact of narcotics on island residents."
Taking down street-level drug dealers, he noted, is attacking the drug problem where a community is most vulnerable, at the point of use and addiction. "You can see the influence of drugs on the population of St. Thomas -- the biggest problem here is the use of crack-cocaine and heroin," he said. Holmes suggested that tourists also feed off the narcotics trade in the islands.
In some communities, the loss of respect for law enforcement has come as the result of the corruptive influence of drug money, of which there is a great deal. St. Thomas should be thankful that corruption has not compromised the integrity of local law enforcement, which drew praise from the DEA special agent-in-charge.
"I have the utmost respect for local law enforcement here. We have worked alongside with them on many operations and given the size of the drug trade here and what we have observed, I must say that there is no corruption going on here," Holmes said.
What the HIDTA task force and all law enforcement would like to see is a public more willing to cooperate with those on the front lines of the war on illegal drugs.
Holmes readily acknowledged the reasons people are not comfortable with going against local drug dealers, but they do not change the fact that public cooperation is necessary.
"Public cooperation is needed and makes the job easier for all of us, however, I can understand the reluctance (residents) feel to come forward," Holmes said. But he admits that the cooperation of the community can yield far greater results.
There are indications that law enforcement is making progress against illegal drug smugglers, although Holmes admitted that it is going to take time to see any real difference. but indicators such as seizures, arrests and convictions, he said, are encouraging.