We continually see, year after year, the same horrid crime figures for the Virgin Islands. Murders, rapes, gang activity, drugs and a host of crimes plague our islands. We are a population of just over 110,000, in an idyllic setting yet we continue to have some of the highest per capita crime statistics in the Americas
The police don't commit crimes, citizens do. The affliction starts with our youth. We can blame poverty, family values, lack of supervision but in the end, we still have a high crime rate and it is eating away at the very fabric of Virgin Island society. We have had numerous programs over the years which are aimed at crime prevention, especially youth crime. All of these programs work well but still crime rates are staggering. The police, citizens, and elected officials must take a stand. I would suggest the following:
1. Legislate a complete ban on the importation of any kind of weapon into the Virgin Islands. We should eliminate all weapons except for those used by law enforcement. In the past we have had cash for handgun programs by the police. This "no questions asked" approach seemed to work and it should happen continuously. Make it a mandatory 20 year sentence for possessing weapons. If certain persons must have weapons, make it difficult to justify why.
2. We should make laws which increase the penalties for certain crimes. First-degree murder should be mandatory life, second-degree should be 30 years. Any other crime which takes a life should be no less than 15 years. Rape should be a minimum of 15 years, sexual assault no less than 10 years. Judges will have no wiggle room if such laws are in the VI Code. No 10 to 20 years with options to allow parole. No possibility for bail in first and second degree murder charges. Persons who would steal or threaten your person should receive mandatory 10 year sentences. Any crime committed with a deadly weapon should carry a minimum 15 year sentence.
3. Citizens must be involved. There are anti-crime organizations in your community. It is your civic duty to call police if you know about a crime. The police cannot be everywhere and it takes the population to be their eyes and ears. More than any other group, businesses should support crime watch type organizations.
4. The police should report daily to the community about crimes that have been committed and suspects involved. Citizen groups must be formed to keep watch over their neighborhoods. If criminals know that they have a greater chance of being caught, they just may think twice before committing a crime.
5. Youth offenders should not be incarcerated with adults. Except for crimes of murder, youths should be detained in a facility which gives them training and counseling with a provision that requires them to teach other youth about their crimes upon end of sentence. Curfew laws for youth 16 and under must exist
6. The police should institute an auxiliary police force and train citizens on how to prevent crime. There is a great lack of trained officers. It makes no sense for police to be harassing citizens when real criminals exist in their midst. The police should concentrate on violent crimes and making our society drug-free rather than looking for ways to hand out tickets.
We live in a tourism based economy. If crimes become so rampant that tourists won't come, we all suffer as a community and in our pocketbooks. The youth must understand that their futures depend on a crime-free society in order to live happy lives. We all must do our part-police and citizens- if we are ever to truly call the Virgin Islands a paradise on earth.
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