The St. Croix Chamber of Commerce enthusiastically endorses the overall intent and major provisions of Bill # 27-0011 to hire 250 additional police officers territorywide, recruit additional police officers from both the Virgin Islands and off-island, and establish a local Witness Protection Program as introduced by Sens. Carlton Dowe and Carmen Wesselhoft.
The U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Croix , in particular, currently suffer from the "perception" of an abnormally high incidence of crime against people and property. Regardless of whether this perception is accurate, the reality is that any incidence of crime is unacceptable. First and foremost, crime endangers all of us: our families, our friends and our neighbors through the community. Second, crime collaterally undermines our efforts to attract new businesses and revitalize the tourism industry, both of which are essential to our future economic growth.
As evidenced by national statistics, even "perceived" high crime rates in major metropolitan areas in the United States erode the economic stability of those communities families move away, businesses close, jobs are lost and alarmed tourists travel elsewhere.
Enactment of this bill will greatly expand the "presence" of law enforcement on St. Croix as well as afford greater protection to the law-abiding citizens of St. Croix , our local businesses and visiting tourists. By increasing the police presence through the hiring of some 250 officers throughout the Territory and by providing these officers with additional law enforcement tools, the Virgin Islands can send a positive message to our citizens and businesses, our prospective tourists and the media The U.S. Virgin Islands Has Zero Tolerance for Crime!
While recognizing the benefits of this bill, we would like to respectfully offer a few suggestions to strengthen the provision establishing the proposed Virgin Islands Witness Protection Program. Specifically, the bill inadvertently creates a small bureaucracy that must meet and have 50 percent of its members in attendance to make decisions on taking people who are in grave and imminent danger into the program. By requiring the Attorney General and the Police Department "brass" to convene to make these decisions may not work and may not be necessary. If the Police Commissioner (or his designee) and the Attorney General (or his designee) both agree to place the person in the program, it is entirely unnecessary to create a board that includes the Police Commissioner and all of his key subordinates. In reality, if the Police Commissioner is convinced of the need, his subordinates will agree with him and will not want to buck him. He can informally solicit their opinions, but should not be required to place them on a formal board. It is the job of the police to actively protect the public and any unnecessary required meetings that take them from other parts of this important function may not serve the noble goals of this important program. In the federal program, if a senior deputy U.S. Marshall and the federal prosecutor wanted to place a qualified candidate in the witness protection program, in most instances that was the only sponsorship needed. We recommend a simplification of this process.
The provision in the bill to attract qualified off-island police candidates is a very good idea and we like the fact that you it requires them to stay at least three years in order to keep their signing bonus. This will help them gain a commitment to our community.
We applaud Sens. Dowe and Wesselhoft for their proactive approach in sponsoring this legislation and urge the membership of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce as well as the other members of the Senate to support this initiative.
Chairman of the Board of Directors
St. Croix Chamber of Commerce
David M. Nissman
Board of Directors
St. Croix Chamber of Commerce
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