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Burglaries Are Up But Not Extraordinarily

Rumors of wild gangs of young people roaming across St. Thomas robbing and burglarizing unsuspecting homeowners are largely unfounded on face value, according to top police officials.

There have been burglaries, Police said, but they take place in isolated pockets, carried out by specific individuals in specific neighborhoods.

A dramatic, rather unusual home invasion in a particular neighborhood recently involving a few relatively young men seemed to set the wildfire of speculation about an island-wide robbery ring.

Further brazen daytime robberies and burglaries in non-contiguous areas involving relatively young men also fanned the flame.

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“These are opportunistic young people with nothing better to do,” Police Commissioner Henry White said in an interview this week. “I am not seeing it necessarily as organized.”

Chief of Detectives Lt. Milton Petersen Sr. agreed, verifying the recent burglaries and home robberies in divergent neighborhoods are not related.

“There are no common factors,” Petersen said, defining common factors as types of items taken, similar break-in techniques, types of cars used.

Petersen would not go so far as to say there are no burglary “rings,” but was emphatic that what might define a ring was still isolated groups in specific areas.

In an interview requested to either confirm or put to rest the notion that some new organized pack was planning and executing brazen break-ins, Petersen allowed that the V.I. Police Department has seen an increase in break-ins running parallel with the economic downturn.

January logged 124 burglaries territorywide. The statistics reported to the Uniform Crime Reporting System this week said the territory saw 1,371 burglaries last year – an average of 114.25 a month.

Petersen was nevertheless upbeat about the number of arrests and gun confiscations in recent years, which he attributed to increased community cooperation.

“I’ve seen more cooperation and we’ve recovered a ton of weapons. And no one in the public has been compromised.”

“Solve-ability,” he said, is key to decreasing the number of crimes, especially violent crimes. And the faster the crimes are solved, the better.

But Petersen repeated another theme that is key to stemming the tide of thievery: Dry up the market for stolen goods. If nobody’s buying the loot, if there’s no market, that’s the end of that, he said, acknowledging that unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Even parents are culpable, he says, in keeping the rampant burglaries going. “Parents have to challenge their children about where their possessions are coming from.”

He says if a kid comes home with a Play Station that the parent didn’t buy for them, it’s incumbent upon the adult to find out where it came from.

“The public knows who’s doing this stuff….where you can buy a used cell phone that’s been wiped clean.”

As head of the Detective Bureau, Petersen works closely with the Intelligence Unit, another partnership Petersen believes has led to increased arrests and convictions.

He said it’s up to the detectives to show up at the scene and start their investigations immediately and to be relentless in pursuing every lead until it is exhausted.

“Intel,” as he referred to “Intelligence,” keeps pace with what’s happening on the street, which he said is constantly changing. The back and forth between two units has led to greater success in arrests and conviction.

“When there’s two known offenders,” he said as an example, and suddenly they meet and take in a third partner in crime, Intel tracks that activity and finds out who that third person is, at which point they can help detectives who have collected evidence such as what a perpetrator looked like, what kind of car he was driving, and other data that Intel can then process against the information that has been gathered.

Petersen is enthusiastic about the results of this cooperative effort. “It saves detectives so much time that can then be spent on investigation.”

While the inner workings are important, over the years the public has always expressed concerns about manpower, feeling that increased police presence would magically solve the problem.

Having officers on the streets is important, Petersen said, but it’s not the total answer. When there’s a rash of incidents in a particular area – using Peterborg as an example – and police patrols are increased in that area, the break-ins start somewhere else, like Smith Bay.

It’s not because it’s the same group of people moving from one place to another, Petersen said, it’s because the group that plagues the vacated area notices the patrols have been decreased. “It really is opportunistic,” he said.

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Rumors of wild gangs of young people roaming across St. Thomas robbing and burglarizing unsuspecting homeowners are largely unfounded on face value, according to top police officials.

There have been burglaries, Police said, but they take place in isolated pockets, carried out by specific individuals in specific neighborhoods.

A dramatic, rather unusual home invasion in a particular neighborhood recently involving a few relatively young men seemed to set the wildfire of speculation about an island-wide robbery ring.

Further brazen daytime robberies and burglaries in non-contiguous areas involving relatively young men also fanned the flame.

“These are opportunistic young people with nothing better to do,” Police Commissioner Henry White said in an interview this week. “I am not seeing it necessarily as organized.”

Chief of Detectives Lt. Milton Petersen Sr. agreed, verifying the recent burglaries and home robberies in divergent neighborhoods are not related.

“There are no common factors,” Petersen said, defining common factors as types of items taken, similar break-in techniques, types of cars used.

Petersen would not go so far as to say there are no burglary “rings,” but was emphatic that what might define a ring was still isolated groups in specific areas.

In an interview requested to either confirm or put to rest the notion that some new organized pack was planning and executing brazen break-ins, Petersen allowed that the V.I. Police Department has seen an increase in break-ins running parallel with the economic downturn.

January logged 124 burglaries territorywide. The statistics reported to the Uniform Crime Reporting System this week said the territory saw 1,371 burglaries last year – an average of 114.25 a month.

Petersen was nevertheless upbeat about the number of arrests and gun confiscations in recent years, which he attributed to increased community cooperation.

“I’ve seen more cooperation and we’ve recovered a ton of weapons. And no one in the public has been compromised.”

“Solve-ability,” he said, is key to decreasing the number of crimes, especially violent crimes. And the faster the crimes are solved, the better.

But Petersen repeated another theme that is key to stemming the tide of thievery: Dry up the market for stolen goods. If nobody’s buying the loot, if there’s no market, that’s the end of that, he said, acknowledging that unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Even parents are culpable, he says, in keeping the rampant burglaries going. “Parents have to challenge their children about where their possessions are coming from.”

He says if a kid comes home with a Play Station that the parent didn’t buy for them, it’s incumbent upon the adult to find out where it came from.

“The public knows who’s doing this stuff....where you can buy a used cell phone that’s been wiped clean.”

As head of the Detective Bureau, Petersen works closely with the Intelligence Unit, another partnership Petersen believes has led to increased arrests and convictions.

He said it’s up to the detectives to show up at the scene and start their investigations immediately and to be relentless in pursuing every lead until it is exhausted.

“Intel,” as he referred to “Intelligence,” keeps pace with what’s happening on the street, which he said is constantly changing. The back and forth between two units has led to greater success in arrests and conviction.

“When there’s two known offenders,” he said as an example, and suddenly they meet and take in a third partner in crime, Intel tracks that activity and finds out who that third person is, at which point they can help detectives who have collected evidence such as what a perpetrator looked like, what kind of car he was driving, and other data that Intel can then process against the information that has been gathered.

Petersen is enthusiastic about the results of this cooperative effort. “It saves detectives so much time that can then be spent on investigation.”

While the inner workings are important, over the years the public has always expressed concerns about manpower, feeling that increased police presence would magically solve the problem.

Having officers on the streets is important, Petersen said, but it’s not the total answer. When there’s a rash of incidents in a particular area – using Peterborg as an example – and police patrols are increased in that area, the break-ins start somewhere else, like Smith Bay.

It’s not because it’s the same group of people moving from one place to another, Petersen said, it’s because the group that plagues the vacated area notices the patrols have been decreased. “It really is opportunistic,” he said.