With Police Commissioner Novelle Francis all ears, several of the approximately 15 members of the Rotary Club of St. John asked for help on a few key issues at their Friday luncheon meeting. It was held at the Westin Resort and Villas Beach Cafe.
John Fuller pointed out that police officers are big offenders when it comes to ignoring stop signs. Instead, they practice a “California stop,” which means they slow down but don’t come to a full stop. And Fuller said police officers don’t seem to be enforcing that law when it comes to other motorists.
“When these little things go unenforced, the bigger laws are going to be unenforced,” Fuller said.
Francis responded that the police officers should lead by example.
When Rotary Club President Bruce Munro brought up the matter of speeders, Francis said that the department tackled that issue on St. Croix by buying an unmarked Camaro, a car with a reputation for being fast. He said that as the Camaro was stopped, a car pulled up alongside. Both cars began to race, but the driver of the other car got a big surprise and a ticket when the Camaro’s driver turned on the police lights and sirens.
In response to a question from Rotarian Catherine Fahy, Francis said that St. John does have gangs but not at the same magnitude as St. Thomas and St. Croix. He said that because the police are now alert to their gang colors, those involved have taken to wearing neutral colors like white. He said that when a group of people are wearing white t-shirts, it’s probably an indication that they’re part of a gang.
Francis addressed the issue of guns coming into the territory, and said that some of the 242 captured across the territory in the last fiscal year were traced to Miami, Nashville, Tenn., Atlanta, and San Antonio, Texas. He said that the Police Department continues to work with the courts so people caught with guns are not let immediately out on the streets.
“They’re let out on the streets to kill or be killed themselves,” Francis said.
He urged the Rotary Club members to put their power as an organization to good use by speaking out on the illegal guns issue.
Francis said that while the Police Department hasn’t had much success in reducing the number of homicides, which this year could pass last year’s 56, he said the number of “Part I” crimes like robberies and assaults are down. And he said that the Police Department has a 75 percent success rate in solving crimes.
In speaking about who will succeed him as police commissioner when his time at the top is over, Francis said he’s grooming Deputy Chief Darren Foy to take over. Foy heads the Police Department’s St. John arm.
“It’s important that we create levels of succession, and he has the drive and the demeanor,” Francis said of Foy.
Munro, who is pushing to expand the number of Rotary members, urged anyone who wishes to join to call him at 776-6674.