The V.I. Police Department will rent space in public housing communities and coordinate with them for community policing, information sharing and organizing local neighborhood watch programs, thanks to a recent agreement.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed a memorandum of agreement between the V.I. government, on behalf of the V.I. Police Department, and the V.I. Housing Authority, Oct. 2.
The agreement includes a lease of a new location for the Mariel C. Newton Command, currently based in Four Winds Shopping Center. As of Friday, the Newton Command, known commonly as “Zone C”, began operating from the Housing Authority offices adjacent to the St. Thomas/St. John Seventh-day Adventist School in Anna’s Retreat.
"The safety of all residents is of paramount importance, so it makes perfect sense to move our police facilities closer to areas that have highly-concentrated populations, like public housing," deJongh said in a statement. "I firmly believe that community policing will help resolve many of our crime issues, especially when aligned with programs to reduce gang activities, provide more after-school options, stress the importance of early learning, and continued emphasis on education and recreation," he added.
In the same statement, VIHA Executive Director Robert Graham said “the partnership will effectuate community policing that will allow the police and residents to work together to improve safety through patrols, surveillance and programs for the youth.”
"We are asking all of our residents that care about their community to work with the VI Housing Authority and police department to reclaim the vibrant communities that produced outstanding and productive citizens through the ages," Graham said.
According to Government House, moving the police station will benefit both the Police Department and Housing Authority, by promoting a stronger partnership for better community-oriented policing.
A section of the agreement stipulates that the Police Department would rent space in public housing developments and other locations owned by the Housing Authority at low rates "to implement community policing with the sole purpose of reducing crime and crime related activities."
The relocation of the Newton Command is the second move in meeting this provision.
Currently there is a police department facility near the Anna’s Retreat basketball courts that is also leased from the Housing Authority. This facility is used by the Crime Prevention and School Security units. The agreement calls for the possible lease of property on St. Croix as well, in particular at the John F. Kennedy, Aureo Diaz Heights, and/or Williams Delight public housing communities.
The available 3,717 square foot, first floor space in the Housing Authority facility is suitable for police and will be refurbished to meet all their needs, according to Government House. The new location will also be more accessible, visible, and provide better response time for police operations.
“This venture began with the collaboration of several government agencies and will usher in an enhanced relationship with in the nearby community,” Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard said in the statement, adding that “having a visible presence in this community will have multiple benefits but will especially allow community’s youth a better chance to interact with police in a positive and informal manner.”
The officers, he said, will be encouraged to “walk and talk” and establish a rapport with the neighborhood.