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Police, Businesses Say New Christiansted Cameras a High Priority

Among the manifold projects and policies championed as key to revitalizing Christiansted and Frederiksted, placing new security cameras throughout Christiansted was championed by police, the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce and the St. Croix Foundation during a committee hearing Tuesday.

"The chamber requests the Legislature appropriate funds and direct (appropriate agencies) to install and monitor a network of security cameras downtown," Mark Eckard, president of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce, testified to the Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation, Youth and Recreation meeting on St. Croix. Eckard said the cameras would help deter crime and help catch criminals, lowering crime in the long run.

The chamber also would like to see more lighting for parking areas and more security for business patrons in Christiansted, Eckard said.

Echoing sentiments voiced by many testifiers at the hearing, Eckard said that the chamber supports plans to renovate Frederiksted’s Oscar Henry Customs House and rebuild Paul E. Joseph Stadium. Lowering energy costs is the single most important priority for chamber members, he said.

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St. Croix Foundation President Roger Dewey said the foundation wrote the grant for V.I. Police Department security cameras throughout the territory in 2001 but those cameras are now obsolete and need to be replaced.

"We stopped maintaining the cameras several years ago at the advice of our technical service providers who felt that the cameras were obsolete," Dewey said. "While we understand there have since been upgrades, our belief is that the camera system needs to be replaced and the coverage expanded as soon as possible to be truly effective," he said, adding that many new neighborhoods have entered the neighborhood watch program and cameras in those neighborhoods could enhance security.

Deputy St. Croix Chief of Police Arthur Hector testified the VIPD is working on maintaining the existing cameras and would like new cameras, if funding can be found. "We are also working on identifying additional locations suitable to place cameras for more coverage in the town areas," Hector said.

Finding funds for the cameras will be critical, all testifiers agreed.

Hector also updated the committee on the latest crime statistics for the territory, saying major violent crimes were down from last year, but other crimes were up.

"During the first quarter of the fiscal year, murders are down. We had eight murders during this same period last year in comparison to four this year," Hector said. "Robberies have increased. We had 28 robberies at this time last year in comparison to 38 this year.”

He said burglaries have shown a comparative increase and that VIPD has implemented initiatives to combat these increases. Hector said crimes against property, such as vehicle theft and arson are down.

The committee took testimony from an array of groups, from the Frederiksted Economic Development Association to the V.I. Economic Development Authority to Crucian History and Nature Tourism, rehashing the well-traveled discussions of the obstacles to and recommended routes to revitalizing the island’s blighted areas.

No votes were taken at the oversight hearing. Present were Committee Chairman Myron Jackson), Sens. Tregenza Roach, Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly, Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Kenneth Gittens. Absent were Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone and Janette Millin Young.

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Among the manifold projects and policies championed as key to revitalizing Christiansted and Frederiksted, placing new security cameras throughout Christiansted was championed by police, the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce and the St. Croix Foundation during a committee hearing Tuesday.

"The chamber requests the Legislature appropriate funds and direct (appropriate agencies) to install and monitor a network of security cameras downtown," Mark Eckard, president of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce, testified to the Committee on Culture, Historic Preservation, Youth and Recreation meeting on St. Croix. Eckard said the cameras would help deter crime and help catch criminals, lowering crime in the long run.

The chamber also would like to see more lighting for parking areas and more security for business patrons in Christiansted, Eckard said.

Echoing sentiments voiced by many testifiers at the hearing, Eckard said that the chamber supports plans to renovate Frederiksted's Oscar Henry Customs House and rebuild Paul E. Joseph Stadium. Lowering energy costs is the single most important priority for chamber members, he said.

St. Croix Foundation President Roger Dewey said the foundation wrote the grant for V.I. Police Department security cameras throughout the territory in 2001 but those cameras are now obsolete and need to be replaced.

"We stopped maintaining the cameras several years ago at the advice of our technical service providers who felt that the cameras were obsolete," Dewey said. "While we understand there have since been upgrades, our belief is that the camera system needs to be replaced and the coverage expanded as soon as possible to be truly effective," he said, adding that many new neighborhoods have entered the neighborhood watch program and cameras in those neighborhoods could enhance security.

Deputy St. Croix Chief of Police Arthur Hector testified the VIPD is working on maintaining the existing cameras and would like new cameras, if funding can be found. "We are also working on identifying additional locations suitable to place cameras for more coverage in the town areas," Hector said.

Finding funds for the cameras will be critical, all testifiers agreed.

Hector also updated the committee on the latest crime statistics for the territory, saying major violent crimes were down from last year, but other crimes were up.

"During the first quarter of the fiscal year, murders are down. We had eight murders during this same period last year in comparison to four this year," Hector said. "Robberies have increased. We had 28 robberies at this time last year in comparison to 38 this year.”

He said burglaries have shown a comparative increase and that VIPD has implemented initiatives to combat these increases. Hector said crimes against property, such as vehicle theft and arson are down.

The committee took testimony from an array of groups, from the Frederiksted Economic Development Association to the V.I. Economic Development Authority to Crucian History and Nature Tourism, rehashing the well-traveled discussions of the obstacles to and recommended routes to revitalizing the island's blighted areas.

No votes were taken at the oversight hearing. Present were Committee Chairman Myron Jackson), Sens. Tregenza Roach, Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O'Reilly, Terrence "Positive" Nelson and Kenneth Gittens. Absent were Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone and Janette Millin Young.