June 16, 2005 – Two of the territory's top tourism officials, Tourism Commissioner Pamela C. Richards and V.I. Hotel Association president Beverly Nicholson, met Thursday with V.I. Police Commissioner Elton Lewis, stepping up their collaboration to ensure the safety of visitors to the territory. Both Richards and Nicholson agreed that the police department has been working diligently to keep tourists safe, but they also advised visitors to follow safety tips that can be found in every hotel and guesthouse.
The three met following the most recent act of violence on St. Thomas, where two young men were found shot to death on Veterans Drive early Wednesday morning. (See "Police Identify Slain New Yorkers, Continue Investigation".)
Richards and Nicholson said they have a close relationship with Lewis, and throughout his tenure, they have repeatedly met to discuss issues of visitor safety and security. "A safety and security committee was established long before this recent shooting took place," Nicholson said.
"Within minutes of the incident, the VIPD was working collecting evidence on the case," Richards said Thursday, adding that the commissioner updates her "almost hourly" on the progress of the case. She said it is important for everyone to know the police are doing everything they can to solve this case. Richards also said Lewis has been in contact with the FBI.
Richards wants potential tourists to remember the Virgin Islands is a U.S territory. "We have the protection of the U.S. flag and its laws. We have the resources and a professional police department," she said.
"The line of communication with the police department is extremely open," Nicholson said. "It has never been better. Commissioner Lewis really understands the needs of the tourism industry."
Nicholson said that she is very aware of the economic impact of crime in the territory. All agencies are pooling their resources to lessen the possible fallout, she said. Nicholson also cautioned guests to be aware of safety issues and use common sense while on vacation.
Richards and Nicholson asked all visitors to follow these safety tips:
Don't answer your door without verifying who it is.
Keep track of your room key.
Lock all doors and sliding-glass doors.
Don't invite strangers into your room.
Don't display large amounts of cash or expensive jewelry.
Place all valuables in the hotel safe.
Be aware of your surroundings if you are out late at night.
Stay in well lit areas.
If you see suspicious activity, notify the hotel staff.
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