What’s going on on St. Thomas? In Savan, we have been under siege – nonstop — since mid-2012. What a horror show for our entire community!
Does anyone "in charge" even care about the crime-driven deterioration which is piercing the very heart of our beloved neighborhood — so that nobody wants to live here anymore — and those who are still here now live in fear and rarely leave their homes?
Does anyone "in charge" even care about our neighborhood? We are under siege. Living like this day and day out is an utter horror show and an emotional and financial drain as we continue to try to rebuild our lives and try to thrive amidst this madness that is Savan redux!
In April 2012, my husband and I and our (now dearly departed) senior kittykat moved from Porter Ranch (La.) to St. Thomas. We chose to live in Savan, as we wanted to live next door to our longtime best friend and his wife. For decades, we had long talked with them about moving to St. Thomas to be closer and to grow old together during our autumn and winter years.
Granted, when we moved here, we already knew living in Savan was going to be a mixed bag. However, our best friend, who has lived in Savan for over 17 years, told us that the neighborhood had improved in recent years. This sentiment was also echoed by many of our fellow neighbors.
Well, not anymore. Not since the kids next door moved in around July 2012.
Since they moved to our block, they’ve been nothing but trouble: Slashing tires, defacing cars, urinating on cars, littering by throwing bottles and other objects — including dog feces — onto the ground below. They frequently throw rocks at passing cars, tourists on safari buses, and people walking down the street. They’ve thrown rocks at our kittykats, and they throw rocks at chickens, frequently killing them and leaving the baby chicks without a mom. Sometimes they kill the chicks too, as if for target practice. A while back, a seagull was unfortunate enough to fly close to the kids’ balcony, and one of the kids grabbed it, twisted its neck and then threw the body below into the ghut. The dead bird lay there for days before someone finally took it to dumpster.
I was an eyewitness to this horror. If they abuse animals and people, chances are it’s only a matter of time before they will graduate to committing more heinous crimes like killing people.
We’ve already had several of our indoor/outdoor cats murdered under suspicious circumstances, including one that was thrown so hard down the hill and into the bush that his back and other bones were broken, he was bleeding internally, was howling from excruciating pain, and when I called one of the local vets, I was told that they were closed for the day and to come by tomorrow. I told them that this was an emergency and that the cat would be dead by then, I was told the doctor was gone for the day and to come by tomorrow. It was 3 p.m. on a weekday. I don’t believe the person I spoke with even bothered to call the doctor at all. It could be that she just wanted to go home and couldn’t be bothered with an animal emergency.
About a year earlier, two of our three-week old tiny kittens were mauled by rat terriers which were let into our gated area, presumably on purpose, to let the dogs chase our cats for sport. Our neighbor found one of them in the bush all chewed up; we never did find the other one.
The kids also frequently make lewd comments and expose themselves to school girls and adult women walking up or down the street. Recently there’s been a string of daylight robberies where the robbers will come up to adolescent or older women walking up the street or the steps, and the robbers will grab their purses and rip necklaces right off the woman’s neck. Many women won’t even go up the stairs anymore because of the frequency in which it happens.
Several years ago, about two or three of these kids, one of which had a metal baseball bat which he was banging loudly against the stone steps, chased a teenage girl up the stairs.
Of course, we called 911, they arrived about an hour later (sometimes we have to call several times before they come), and every time they seem to get lost and don’t know where we live, which is a joke because the police seem to find our other neighbors just fine when they call. On one of the few dozen 911 calls we’ve made over the past three years, the police officer told us that we should consider moving.
On this particular occasion, one of our newer downstairs neighbors’ grandson was standing at the top of the steps urinating into the empty lot below, even though the bathroom was steps away. On earlier occasions, both the neighbors’ son and grandson would urinate, full frontal, on the wall of the stairs in broad daylight, even though the bathroom was a mere few steps away. When we asked the grandmother politely to please ask the son and grandson to stop doing that, the grandmother and the son started screaming at my husband and me, threatening not only serious bodily harm, but also threatening to kill us. About a week later was when our next door neighbor alerted me when our one cat was thrown from a high place into the bush and died about a day later because the vet wouldn’t let me bring the cat over because it was a life-and-death situation.
The place where these kids live has location, location, location – for acting as lookouts for criminals who live down the street. They have a system of whistles to signify when someone is leaving their house, when they see someone coming back. Plus there’s an entire lookout system in Savan whereby, even if we’re just meeting friends for dinner and drinks in town, there’s an entire network watching where we go and when we’re heading home.
The kids, who are now getting older, live at their home unsupervised. We haven’t seen the mother in over a year. It also appears that they are no longer in school, as word has it that they’ve been expelled permanently. Now that they have even more time on their hands, they are also getting bolder and are being groomed to be the next generation of thieves. Word has it that they’re protected and so nobody will mess with them.
Since we moved here, we’ve been robbed twice. The first time was around May 2013, where a burglar scaled our wall — in broad daylight – broke in, and took all of our electronics, including my work computer, iPod, portable speakers, and my wedding band, which I hadn’t been able to wear due to the humidity.
When I asked around the neighborhood after it happened, some of the neighbors told me they saw someone climbing up to our flat — yet nobody says anything nor do they call the police, even anonymously.
I had to rent a computer so that I could continue running my business. It took me two years to save up to buy a new computer. Then I gave the rental to my husband and bought a new one.
Two weeks ago, my husband and I met up with our best friend for drinks and dinner at our fave local watering hole on Back Street. When we got home, we discovered we had been robbed again. This time they took the rental computer, my new (four-month old) computer that took me two years to buy, my new iPad, and an old iPhone 3G that I used as a replacement for my iPod which had been stolen two years earlier.
This time, not only did the burglar scale the wall, but he also used brute force to open the door by using his body weight to break the door frame to get it. The door was dead bolted and has iron bars on it. Our landlord, who grew up in this house, told us that this place had never been broken into — up until 2013 and now in 2015. Our place is like Fort Knox; it’s almost impregnable, but apparently not anymore. Also, this time some guy in the neighborhood offered to find my computer and iPad to me, no questions asked, if we’d give him $60. Fools that we are, we gave it to him. We haven’t seen him since. Word has it that he’s in on it too.
Both times we’ve been robbed; we had only been gone for about two hours. Both times those kids were on their balcony, watching as we were leaving, and watching, as we got home, and also watching as the police came when we called 911.
Of course, both times we called the police, they took about an hour to get here, and they go through the motions of inspecting and writing the report. They never try to dust for fingerprints, nor do they bother to take pictures of things like the door, which was busted to bits.
We were not the only ones to get robbed either. Many of our neighbors had their laptops and other electronics stolen too.
Word also has it that the burglar who robbed the neighborhood two years ago was arrested and put in jail and was recently released. It’s clear from how our home was robbed that this was the same person(s) who robbed us two years ago.
In addition, word has it that certain police officers know who’s committing these crimes and are probably part of the burglary ring.
Most of the time neighbors won’t even call the police because they know it’s useless. They’re also afraid to call 911 because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves, making them vulnerable to future attacks, including the possibility of their children being targeted.
As a result, most of our neighbors are shut-ins and rarely leave their homes unless they have to go somewhere, like work or shopping. To this day, our neighbors’ cars are vandalized — especially when a neighbor buys a new one.
And, now that these kids are getting older and appear to be part of one of the local gangs, the criminal element is now seeping into our neighborhood, making it even more dangerous.
These kids even have the gall to make it a point to watch when the police are called to the scene and will even walk by them as if they’re innocent bystanders. The day after we were robbed, several of them looked over at me while I was on the veranda and grinned and laughed at me. They do the same to our other hardworking neighbors who continue to have their cars defaced. To them, it’s entertainment. To us, it’s a horror show.
One of our neighbors recently installed security cameras, followed by the kids leaving something disgusting on their porch, probably dog feces since the kids never take the dog for a walk. The police came by to pick it up for analysis, which will probably go nowhere. Ironic that the police know where our neighbor across the street lives, yet they can never seem to find ours.
Yesterday, one of our neighbors told me that, since I’m working from home most of the time, they’re constantly watching me. The minute I leave the veranda and close the doors, the burglars wait about 20 minutes and then break in. Given that we lock up thoroughly, are typically only gone for a few hours, my husband and I can’t leave the house together anymore, and I can’t leave at all if he’s at work. Heaven forbid we ever want to go on vacation. Chances are we’ll come home, and the burglars will have cleaned out our entire home by then.
When my husband and I need to leave the house from time to time – like taking our cats to the vet — my husband has to get into the car, drive up the hill, and I meet him at the top of the hill or elsewhere, so that the kids don’t see us leaving together. It’s surreal.
It’s distressing that these kids are terrorizing their fellow neighbors and helping orchestrate having their fellow neighbors robbed.
Our landlord fixed our door, of course, installed yet another deadbolt, and put up some boards with nails on them to help prevent the criminals from climbing up the wall. He was going to put up barbed wire, but he said it’d make the place look like a concentration camp, to which I replied it is one. It’s now a prison instead of a home.
A while back, our landlord, whose father built this house in the 1950s, which was the family home for decades, told us the neighborhood used to be very respectable; that doctors, lawyers, and business owners lived here. Clearly those days are gone forever.
What’s going on, St. Thomas? Doesn’t anyone realize that if this continues — and I’m sure our neighborhood isn’t the only one with this problem — that the island is doomed? If tourists stop coming here because it’s too dangerous (tourists read blogs and other Internet sources when shopping around as to where to vacation), what’s going to happen to our island?
And what’s going to happen to us, who live here? Our neighborhood is made up of hard working families with children, yet three kids move in on our street, and the entire neighborhood goes to hell.
Nobody — not the police, not government, not the politicians, not anyone — seems to even be trying to do anything about this situation, which is becoming even more dire by the day. The good neighbors on our block live in fear. What kind of quality of life is that? We have a fundamental right to quiet enjoyment in our home and our neighborhood. And why is that three kids moving into the neighborhood has shattered our lives to pieces?
I’ve been conversing with a fellow neighbor in Savan who wants to start a neighborhood watch, which sounds great in theory except that it will make things much worse because the criminals will have a pipeline to this information, which will make it even easier for them to rob us — for the umpteenth time.
Where does it end — or does it? As a community, we cannot stop this madness — especially when law enforcement and local government is utterly apathetic.
This mayhem and carnage has got to stop — not only in Savan but island-wide — if St. Thomas is to thrive and survive. The alternative is anarchy, the ball of which has already been in play for years now, and the pressure of it has long been on the verge of exploding, like a ticking time bomb.
It’s only a matter of time now . . . unless something can be done. As a community, we are under fire and have limited resources to combat this street war unless we are willing to put ourselves and our loved ones at risk.
Please read and share my letter with your families, friends, and other loved ones.
Carrie F. Bekker, St. Thomas