With the Boston Marathon bombing still fresh in Festival organizers’ minds, local and federal law enforcement agencies, in conjunction with the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization, plan tight security for the upcoming Festival events.
“We’re trying to be more vigilant,” said Leona Smith, St. John Administrator and head of the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization.
Security will start on St. Thomas at the Red Hook ferry dock, where passengers boarding the ferry to Cruz Bay, St. John, will be subject to random screening by the Transportation Security Administration. The agency calls its efforts Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response.
“The primary objective of VIPR operations is to prevent acts of terrorism through the exercise of random, unpredictable security and law enforcement asset deployments in all modes of transportation,” Federal Security Director Julian E. Williams said in a press release.
Williams said VIPRs represent a cooperative and coordinated response by federal and local teams to prevent, disrupt and deter acts of terror.
Deputy Police Chief Maria Jones wouldn’t provide details but said that officers will make random inspections at places like parking lots.
“We have augmented our manpower with officers coming from St. Thomas,” she said, adding that officers will be on foot patrols.
According to Smith, the bomb disposal unit parked across from the police station for Sunday’s Food Fair was part of the security effort.
“You’re going to see a lot of that,” she said.
It appears that the J’ouvert scheduled for 4 a.m. July 4 will be quite scaled down compared to the usual rowdy party. Smith said Thursday afternoon that she hasn’t heard from any bands that usually play at J’ouvert and that, in past years, they’ve all notified her early on.
She did say Pan in Motion will play, but also that she doesn’t expect people who follow a steel pan group through the streets of Cruz Bay to cause problems.
According to the TSA press release, VIPR teams are usually well known for their sudden but now expected appearance in different modes of transportation such as at the Red Hook ferry dock. This year, TSA VIPRs have screened several thousands of passengers, several hundred vehicles and, with agency partners, have detected numerous contraband items, undeclared firearms and other dangerous items that may have otherwise gone undetected during this high traffic season, the release said.
Williams said the “highlight of our operations to date” was the “successful identification of a runaway who was eventually returned to her parents’ custody.”
TSA asked for continued support and cooperation during these operations and reminded travelers to be vigilant on all transportation modes and to report suspicious activity to local law enforcement. The traveling public plays an important role in security, TSA said.
For more information on these and other helpful tips, please visit www.tsa.gov.