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POLICE TOP BRASS NO SHOWS AT HEARING

Oct. 12, 2001 – Several senators lashed out at police brass when none of the top law enforcement officials showed up to testify at a Senate hearing Friday night on crime in the Virgin Islands.
The invited witnesses included Police Commissioner Franz Christian, Territorial Police Chief Jose Garcia and Deputy Police Chiefs Theodore Carty of St. Thomas and Novelle Francis of St. Croix, as well as local leaders of several federal law-enforcement agencies.
But none of the Virgin Islands Police Department officials made it to the hearing Friday before the Senate Government Operations Committee, leading several senators to question the responsiveness of police brass at a time when security is such an important issue.
"It is sorely distressing to me, the absence of people who were confirmed to be here," said Sen. Emmett Hansen II, the chairman of the committee. "We have to pay more than just lip service to law enforcement."
Christian wrote a letter to Senate leaders, saying that he could not attend the hearing because issues stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the mainland were keeping him busy.
Despite the absence of police officials and representatives of most of the federal agencies that were invited, the hearings went on with testimony from Attorney General Iver Stridiron; Capt. Gaston Tuckett of the V.I. Housing Authority police; Barry Broome, the chairman of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce Crime Committee; and representatives from the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Tuckett said the five-year-old V.I. Housing Authority police were losing their main source of funding through the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, but that housing officials were looking for ways to keep the force running with other funds.
"We’re in dying need of equipment, such as ammunition, bullet-proof vests and armament," he said, adding that officials would be focusing simply on keeping the officers employed.
While funding problems plague the Housing Authority police, other agencies are facing their own resource problems.
Keith Williams, the assistant officer-in-charge of the INS for the territory, said that the agency did not have the means to adequately patrol Virgin Islands waters to stop the flow of illegal immigrants to these shores.
"The lack of marine presence is one of our critical needs in the Virgin Islands to protect the shoreline and to curb the flow of undocumented aliens," he said.
Broome said the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, which has supported the police bike patrol and the training academy, would begin placing advertisements this month about the V.I. Project Exile program, designed to increase public awareness of the harsh penalties connected with carrying illegal firearms.
He noted that people, and specifically the business community, cannot afford to let high crime continue in the territory.
"If something happens downtown and one or two tourists are killed, that would be our Fountain Valley," he said, referring to the multiple murder on St. Croix in 1972 that severely damaged the island's tourism industry. "This issue of crime is serious," Broome said.
Hansen spoke about work being done by the Legislature and Gov. Charles Turnbull’s office to pass firearms legislation that would greatly increase penalties connected with carrying unlicenced weapons. Turnbull vetoed the bill earlier this year over sections about property forfeiture, but he has indicated he supported the intention to increase the penalties.
Hansen said he expected a version of the bill to go through soon, and that it would be one important step in curbing the high crime that continues to plague the territory.
"One way or another, we will see that the Virgin Islands are safe," Hansen said.

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Oct. 12, 2001 – Several senators lashed out at police brass when none of the top law enforcement officials showed up to testify at a Senate hearing Friday night on crime in the Virgin Islands.
The invited witnesses included Police Commissioner Franz Christian, Territorial Police Chief Jose Garcia and Deputy Police Chiefs Theodore Carty of St. Thomas and Novelle Francis of St. Croix, as well as local leaders of several federal law-enforcement agencies.
But none of the Virgin Islands Police Department officials made it to the hearing Friday before the Senate Government Operations Committee, leading several senators to question the responsiveness of police brass at a time when security is such an important issue.
"It is sorely distressing to me, the absence of people who were confirmed to be here," said Sen. Emmett Hansen II, the chairman of the committee. "We have to pay more than just lip service to law enforcement."
Christian wrote a letter to Senate leaders, saying that he could not attend the hearing because issues stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the mainland were keeping him busy.
Despite the absence of police officials and representatives of most of the federal agencies that were invited, the hearings went on with testimony from Attorney General Iver Stridiron; Capt. Gaston Tuckett of the V.I. Housing Authority police; Barry Broome, the chairman of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce Crime Committee; and representatives from the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Tuckett said the five-year-old V.I. Housing Authority police were losing their main source of funding through the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, but that housing officials were looking for ways to keep the force running with other funds.
"We’re in dying need of equipment, such as ammunition, bullet-proof vests and armament," he said, adding that officials would be focusing simply on keeping the officers employed.
While funding problems plague the Housing Authority police, other agencies are facing their own resource problems.
Keith Williams, the assistant officer-in-charge of the INS for the territory, said that the agency did not have the means to adequately patrol Virgin Islands waters to stop the flow of illegal immigrants to these shores.
"The lack of marine presence is one of our critical needs in the Virgin Islands to protect the shoreline and to curb the flow of undocumented aliens," he said.
Broome said the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, which has supported the police bike patrol and the training academy, would begin placing advertisements this month about the V.I. Project Exile program, designed to increase public awareness of the harsh penalties connected with carrying illegal firearms.
He noted that people, and specifically the business community, cannot afford to let high crime continue in the territory.
"If something happens downtown and one or two tourists are killed, that would be our Fountain Valley," he said, referring to the multiple murder on St. Croix in 1972 that severely damaged the island's tourism industry. "This issue of crime is serious," Broome said.
Hansen spoke about work being done by the Legislature and Gov. Charles Turnbull’s office to pass firearms legislation that would greatly increase penalties connected with carrying unlicenced weapons. Turnbull vetoed the bill earlier this year over sections about property forfeiture, but he has indicated he supported the intention to increase the penalties.
Hansen said he expected a version of the bill to go through soon, and that it would be one important step in curbing the high crime that continues to plague the territory.
"One way or another, we will see that the Virgin Islands are safe," Hansen said.