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Charlotte Amalie
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Horses Could Help in Island's Fight Against Crime

Oct. 20, 2004 – A group of citizens trotted out a crime-fighting alternative for St. Croix's downtown areas. Fred Parker and Jim McRitchie of Mounted Police Training Systems Inc. were invited to the territory by members of the Anti-Crime Task Force to pitch a mounted police patrol. Parker and Ritchie have over 20 years experience in mounted patrol training.
"We are on St. Croix doing an assessment," said Parker, company president, during a presentation Tuesday evening at Sand Castles on the Beach in Frederiksted. "We've found St. Croix is an excellent place for a mounted police unit." The team arrived on St. Croix Sunday and is spending five days.
McRitchie is responsible for developing instructional material and selecting instructors. He said he has been in the Cleveland, Ohio police force for 28 years, 20 of those years he was assigned to the mounted police unit. "The mounted unit is a strong deterrent to crime," McRitchie said.
Members of the Task Force realize funding and acceptance of the mounted unit by the government is an obstacle they must overcome. But they said they are ready for the challenge.
Hortense Rowe, one of the founding members of the Task Force, said the Task Force approached Elton Lewis, police department commissioner, to gauge the department's interest in establishing a mounted patrol. She said, although Lewis is supportive of the project, the commissioner's first priority is increasing police manpower to 85 percent.
Elliot "Tucker" Durand, another Task Force member and the driving force behind the mounted patrol unit, said funding for the program could come from federal grants, private funds and donations. However, he hopes government would take responsibility for the project. "Businesses are barely making it on their own," Durand said. "I am not sure the program could be sustained outside of the government."
Task Force member, Simone Palmer said the commissioner should research "lateral transfers and reciprocity" of police officers from other states to beef up manpower. "They need to reactivate the auxiliary police force," added Palmer. Palmer said St. Croix needed to do all it could to promote a positive image.
The task force's goal is to train 10 mounted units to patrol Christiansted and Frederiksted – towns and beaches. The mounted unit can also be used to go into remote, hilly and bushy terrain, Parker said. The unit will require specialized training for the animals as well as officers. And Parkers' company, based in Boca Raton, Fla., will provide the training. Parker said a mounted patrol could effectively control crowds, offer a visible crime deterrent, contribute to public relations and provide assistance to other law enforcement agencies.
Task force members say they have the backing of several local organizations for the mounted unit including the St. Croix Community Foundation.
Mary Scribner and her son John attended the meeting. The Scribner's, owners of Turtles Deli, threw their support behind the mounted patrol unit. "We've got a problem," Mary said of the crime in Frederiksted, "and we need to address the problem now."
A similar meeting was held in Christiansted on Wednesday evening.
Rowe said the Task Force will continue identifying partners and funding for the project. The findings will then be taken to the police commissioner for his approval. "Anything we do has to be sustainable," said Rowe.
For more information on Mounted Police Training Inc. visit www.mountedpolicetraining.com ).
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