Residents of St. Thomas’s West End said Monday that they would like to see an increased police presence, quicker emergency response times and better-organized street mapping in their neighborhoods to improve safety on their part of the island.
Approximately 20 residents of Estates Pearl, Santa Maria, Bordeaux and Fortuna gathered at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church to share their concerns with representatives of the Community and Police Alliance, an organization founded in 2015 to identify and improve policing-related issues across St. Thomas.
The alliance serves as a mediator between smaller neighborhood organizations and the V.I. Police Department.
Their community partner on the West End is the West End Alliance.
According to attendees of Monday’s meeting, neighborhood partnership with the police has deteriorated since the retirement of Officer Dean Chinnery, who served western St. Thomas for eight years and who residents recognized as someone who “always went above and beyond.”
Multiple attendees of Monday’s meeting spoke of frustration with emergency response times on the West End and limited interaction between VIPD officers and residents since Chinnery’s retirement.
One reason for slow emergency response times, according to Sheri Meyers, president of the West End Alliance, is a lack of standardized street names and signs, a problem also experienced elsewhere on the island.
One of CAPA’s chief goals is to assist in the naming and marking of St. Thomas’s streets to improve neighborhood services, including policing, said the organization’s president, Bruce Flamon.
Meyers said her organization has been working on the same issue on the West End and that the partnership with CAPA will help expedite the process.
Residents of Bovoni, Smith Bay and Red Hook are also currently tackling street naming in their neighborhoods.
One resident of the West End said he’s been trying to replace damaged signage for the Charles Mario Lewis Road in Estate Fortuna for years with little luck.
“The road needs to be cleaned. You cannot name a road after an individual and not keep it marked and clean,” he said.
Traffic hazards presented by overgrown foliage along the West End’s roads, particularly west of Botany Bay, was a concern for many residents.
St. Thomas and Water Island Administrator Merwin Potter, who is a resident of Estate Bordeaux and attended Monday’s meeting, said crews are scheduled to begin working on clearing roads on the West End as early as next week.
Two other concerns of West End residents were the V.I. Waste Management Authority’s proposed change from a dumpster bin system to a house collection system, which some were unsure of, and the erection of a communications pole near the area’s fire station.
Meyers said the West End Alliance has been opposed to the building of communication towers in the area’s neighborhoods in the past, but she has been told that the new pole is only for emergency 911 communications.
As during CAPA meetings on other parts of St. Thomas, West End residents said they are underreporting frequent but dangerous crimes like gunfire and drag racing due to a lack of response from police.
Flamon encouraged residents to keep calling authorities and to keep paper records of every report they make.
Flamon has told other St. Thomas neighborhoods that in order to be able to advocate for them, CAPA needs “a paper trail.”
“What we’re going to do is – just like we asked the people in Contant and Hidden Valley – start calling, flooding 911. Let them know that you guys are active and moving in the right direction, and services will improve,” said Flamon.
CAPA’s follow-up meeting with West End residents and representatives of government will take place at the Holy Spirit Episcopal Church on Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting was previously scheduled for Jan. 25, but has been changed so it will not conflict with the governor’s State of the Territory Address.
Also attending Monday’s meeting was Sen. Justin Harrigan.