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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, May 21, 2022
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Police Taking Steps to Keep New Year and Festival Safe

Most people who attend the Crucian Christmas Festival do so to have fun, enjoy themselves, have a good time. For those few who come looking for trouble, St. Croix Police Chief Chris Howell has a warning.

Look around, he said. Can you be sure the person standing next to you isn’t a police officer?

Speaking Tuesday morning at a press conference at police headquarters, Howell talked about measures the Virgin Islands Police Department will implement to make sure residents and visitors enjoy the festival and New Year’s celebrations in safety.

Violence brought an abrupt end to J’ouvert a year ago, and police will make sure it doesn’t happen again, the chief said. Police will be present all along the route in large numbers, and other officers will actually be part of the crowd, taking pictures which might end up in evidence if trouble starts.

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At the first sign of trouble, at the first sight of a weapon, police will step in and shut it down, the chief promised.

"Rain might not stop the tromp, but the police might," he said. "Safety is paramount."

Asked if the police in the tromp will be in uniform or plain clothes, the chief said he didn’t want to give away the strategy, but suggested people will need to keep in mind that the person next to them just might be a police officer.

St. Croix Rescue will take a bigger role in festival safety this year, the chief continued. The agency will have five two-man teams at all events, providing support for medical assistance and emergencies until the EMTs arrive.

The parade route for the Children’s Parade and Festival Parade, slated for Jan. 6 and 7, will have manned barricades at every intersection along King Street, the chief said, which should allow the parade to move more quickly and stay on schedule. There will be pedestrian openings at each barricade, but he urged people attending the parades to wait and take directions from the officers on duty before attempting to cross.

The Festival Village opens in Frederiksted Thursday evening at its normal site on the north side of town, across the street from the fort and adjacent to the baseball stadium. Howell said several measures have been added to increase security.

The department has had several flood lights donated by Christiansted Equipment, and two will be on hand at the village. The lights will be placed each night based on day-to-day decision about where potential trouble seems highest. The police also have a system of security cameras on the grounds to keep an eye on things.

Most people, "99 percent," the chief said, come to the festival to have fun and celebrate. It’s the police’s job to make sure the one percent doesn’t ruin things for everyone else.

Curfew will be in place for young people, and anyone younger than 16 who is out after 10 p.m. and is not under the supervision of their legal guardian – or "within eyeshot of their parents," the chief said – will be taken into custody and their parents called to come get them.

New Year’s Warning

Howell also pleaded for Crucians to remember that discharging firearms into the sky at the stroke of the New Year is illegal and dangerous.

"What comes up must come down," he repeated, pointing out that each year there are reports of holes in roofs from the shots.

"It’s a miracle we haven’t had anyone injured or killed," he said.

Police will be on patrol in neighborhoods where, in the past, there have been the most reports of celebratory shots fired. If officers catch a person shooting into the sky, they will arrest him, Howell said.

He reminded residents that the holidays, while a joyful time, also see a major spike in cases of domestic violence. Howell urged people to be aware of the kinds of things that cause trouble in a family – for instance, drinking or arguing – and try to avoid them when the holidays add extra stress to life.

Finally, Chief Howell said the VIPD will continue to hold traffic checkpoints to keep drunken drivers off the road.

"We don’t want anybody to get in an accident," he said.

Howell added that at recent checkpoints an increasing number of cars were pulled over in which the driver was the only sober person in the vehicle.

"So they are listening to our warning," he said, smiling.

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Most people who attend the Crucian Christmas Festival do so to have fun, enjoy themselves, have a good time. For those few who come looking for trouble, St. Croix Police Chief Chris Howell has a warning.

Look around, he said. Can you be sure the person standing next to you isn't a police officer?

Speaking Tuesday morning at a press conference at police headquarters, Howell talked about measures the Virgin Islands Police Department will implement to make sure residents and visitors enjoy the festival and New Year’s celebrations in safety.

Violence brought an abrupt end to J'ouvert a year ago, and police will make sure it doesn't happen again, the chief said. Police will be present all along the route in large numbers, and other officers will actually be part of the crowd, taking pictures which might end up in evidence if trouble starts.

At the first sign of trouble, at the first sight of a weapon, police will step in and shut it down, the chief promised.

"Rain might not stop the tromp, but the police might," he said. "Safety is paramount."

Asked if the police in the tromp will be in uniform or plain clothes, the chief said he didn't want to give away the strategy, but suggested people will need to keep in mind that the person next to them just might be a police officer.

St. Croix Rescue will take a bigger role in festival safety this year, the chief continued. The agency will have five two-man teams at all events, providing support for medical assistance and emergencies until the EMTs arrive.

The parade route for the Children's Parade and Festival Parade, slated for Jan. 6 and 7, will have manned barricades at every intersection along King Street, the chief said, which should allow the parade to move more quickly and stay on schedule. There will be pedestrian openings at each barricade, but he urged people attending the parades to wait and take directions from the officers on duty before attempting to cross.

The Festival Village opens in Frederiksted Thursday evening at its normal site on the north side of town, across the street from the fort and adjacent to the baseball stadium. Howell said several measures have been added to increase security.

The department has had several flood lights donated by Christiansted Equipment, and two will be on hand at the village. The lights will be placed each night based on day-to-day decision about where potential trouble seems highest. The police also have a system of security cameras on the grounds to keep an eye on things.

Most people, "99 percent," the chief said, come to the festival to have fun and celebrate. It's the police's job to make sure the one percent doesn’t ruin things for everyone else.

Curfew will be in place for young people, and anyone younger than 16 who is out after 10 p.m. and is not under the supervision of their legal guardian – or "within eyeshot of their parents," the chief said – will be taken into custody and their parents called to come get them.

New Year’s Warning

Howell also pleaded for Crucians to remember that discharging firearms into the sky at the stroke of the New Year is illegal and dangerous.

"What comes up must come down," he repeated, pointing out that each year there are reports of holes in roofs from the shots.

"It's a miracle we haven't had anyone injured or killed," he said.

Police will be on patrol in neighborhoods where, in the past, there have been the most reports of celebratory shots fired. If officers catch a person shooting into the sky, they will arrest him, Howell said.

He reminded residents that the holidays, while a joyful time, also see a major spike in cases of domestic violence. Howell urged people to be aware of the kinds of things that cause trouble in a family – for instance, drinking or arguing – and try to avoid them when the holidays add extra stress to life.

Finally, Chief Howell said the VIPD will continue to hold traffic checkpoints to keep drunken drivers off the road.

"We don't want anybody to get in an accident," he said.

Howell added that at recent checkpoints an increasing number of cars were pulled over in which the driver was the only sober person in the vehicle.

"So they are listening to our warning," he said, smiling.