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National and Territorial Law Agencies Team Up to Tackle Gun Violence

Oct. 10, 2007 — The federal and local departments of Justice are pooling their resources in an effort to eradicate gun crime in the territory, and they're asking the public to help out, law-enforcement officials said during a press conference Wednesday morning on St. Thomas.
The two agencies have been working together unofficially for years, said Attorney General Vincent Frazer, Speaking at Government House. However, the recent spike in criminal activity, coupled with the increase in cases juggled by both departments, has made it necessary to take the relationship to the next level, he added.
Frazer and U.S. Attorney Anthony Jenkins signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) before the press conference, outlining the details of their joint plan. It provides for the cross designation of prosecutors handling federal and local cases: Prosecutors in the V.I. Department of Justice will step in and take the lead on cases spearheaded by the U.S. Attorney's Office, and vice versa.
"We believe that this is a much-needed initiative," Frazer said during the press conference. "We are all affected by the crime on the streets, and all of us don't have enough resources to deal with the cases that we have. Now the resources of the federal government can be brought in to assist cases being tried on the local level, and the other way around."
Echoing Frazer's remarks, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Murphy added that the success of the new initiative primarily hinges on cooperation from the community.
"This is a call to all Virgin Islanders to step up and participate, with the full support of the federal and local governments, in solving some of the crimes that are happening out there," he said. Law enforcement agencies working alongside the two departments include officers and agents from the V.I. Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Postal Service.
In addition to giving a boost to the local legal system, the partnership also makes certain services — such as witness-protection programs — more available to the community, Murphy added. In terms of added manpower, six new ATF agents will soon make their way to the territory, while two new attorneys will also join the ranks U.S. Attorney's Office, he said.
Federal funds can also be used to make sure criminal cases are prosecuted successfully and to the fullest extent of the law, Murphy explained.
"The violence we see here really reduces the peace of the people that live within the territory," Murphy said. "And the result is that they live with a little less freedom. We want to restore that freedom to them. It is imperative that the people of the Virgin Islands not continue to be silent, and they should also recognize that for anyone that commits a crime down here, there is a specific victim."
Law-enforcement officials have become targets, Murphy said, referencing the recent death of Bureau of Corrections Officer Davidson James and a recent assassination attempt made on James Dolby, the Drug Enforcement Agency supervisor on St. Thomas. (See "Slain Corrections Officer was Shot Outside His Home.")
"These events, along with other shooting incidents throughout the territory, have certainly brought the issue of gun violence to the forefront," he said. "We will specifically be looking to deal with cases relating to gun violence, and will look at where each case is best prosecuted, and how."
Gov. John deJongh Jr. pledged his support for the initiative, saying the territory must begin to take a hard-line approach to reducing the increasing crime levels.
"The problems that we have here are problems that can be addressed if we work together," he said. "And I think this initiative is the first step in that process, combining the efforts of all our law-enforcement agencies, and the leveraging of our collective resources."
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