Dec. 9, 2002 – The territory's Housing Authority Police officers will soon be working for the V.I. Police Department, according to the Virgin Islands' top cop.
Police Commissioner Franz Christian said on Monday that he has received "marching orders" from Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to incorporate the housing officers into the regular force.
Some 24 housing police officers are involved, and "I will be willing to take those officers on as early as this week," Christian said in an interview. "They are fully trained, and I believe they will be an asset to the police force and the Virgin Islands community."
The Housing Authority Police, in existence for six years, will be disbanded at the end of this month for lack of funding. Officers began receiving layoff notices in mid-November.
This year, President Bush and Congress ended the Public Housing Drug Elimination Grant Program, which had been the major source of funding for the local housing police and other such units nationwide.
"All of public housing, not just the Virgin Islands, was affected by the president's decision," Housing Authority Police Chief Fitzroy Williams said. "The local housing authority couldn't afford to pick us up in the budget, and there was no funding coming from the central government."
Williams, also in an interview on Monday, said he hopes the merger with the Police Department will include time and grade parity for his personnel. The officers should make the pay of whatever a six-year veteran receives and not that of a first- year officer, and "anything short of that would be slapping these officers in the face," he said.
According to Williams, the presence of the Housing Authority Police has helped to reduce crime in the housing communities.
Christian said the Police Department will be able to provide the same level of security that the communities now have.
Homicides in the territory have risen steeply this year compared to recent years. The 2002 toll currently stands at 42 killings, compared to 26 in 2001, 17 in 2000, and 23 in 1999 as of this date.
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