Dec. 11, 2005 –"This is a community meeting without the community," is how radio news reporter Alvin Gee termed the situation at the American Legion Hall in Christiansted on Saturday afternoon.
The V.I. Police Department had called the meeting to spark interest in the community to form Neighborhood Watch groups. Only half a dozen residents showed up.
Cpl. Sheila Middleton, crime prevention consultant for the V.I. Police Department, said she had hoped to see more people at the meeting. She said she had knocked on doors and passed out pamphlets. She added, "I don't know what else to do to motivate people."
Lt. Mary Duggen did have good news to report to the residents. She said the police department had made substantial progress in investigating a rash of recent burglaries in the Christiansted area. She said the progress was the result of residents coming forth with important information. She said warrants should be issued soon and arrests made.
Middleton said that across the island over 50 Neighborhood Watch groups have been formed. She urged those in attendance to take what they learned at this meeting back to their neighborhoods and share it with their neighbors.
She said a Neighborhood Watch group is basically about residents learning was they need to be aware of and about "neighbors helping neighbors."
She said, "If there is a crime happening in your neighborhood, it is your business."
She added that this was not about forming a vigilante group and attacking criminals.
Duggen said neighborhoods used to be close knit community where everyone knew everyone else and she hoped, "this meeting could initiate that community feeling we once knew."
Residents raised questions about whether the video surveillance cameras were working downtown and what the police could do about vacant houses and lots.
Duggen said the cameras were working, recording information, but there was presently a problem extracting information from them, but that was being worked on.
Roger Dewey, of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands which did most of the work to get the cameras, said the project should be expanded. He said the technology is much better than it was when the original 30-some cameras were purchased. He also said cameras that then cost $10,000 could now be purchased for $3,000.
Duggen said that the police department did not have the right to just go onto property and clean it up. However, she said that if the owners signed waivers, then the department could do something.
Dewey said, the V.I. Foundation had been using prisoners in a program to clean lots. However, he said those work crews need a correction officer with them and presently there is a great shortage of correction officers.
Dewey praised the work of the police department. He said, "We have some dam good police officers, especially in Christiansted." He said the bicycle patrol officers working downtown had become familiar faces to the merchants and the merchants were appreciative of the patrol's presence.
However, one resident had a complaint. She asked, "If we know a certain house is a crack house and the police know it is a crack house, why is it still there?"
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