Only one life so far has succumbed to the novel coronavirus in the territory, but V.I. Police Department Commissioner Trevor Velinor said the recent homicides in the Hospital Ground area have taken three lives, including one Friday morning, and injured two more.
The department is not taking these violent crimes lightly, Velinor said. While the department is dealing with COVID-19 on the one hand, the commissioner said, and on the other hand the police must split their attention to individuals who adversely impact the community.
“We need to have out cry, we need to be angry about those who are doing these types of illegal activities. Hence, we are going to be very aggressive about dealing with those who are out on the street,” Velinor said during his appearance on WSTA Lucky 13 Radio Friday afternoon.
Many residents who called into the station were very angry, but much of their animosity was directed at the VIPD.
Residents said the shootings have been going on in the area for decades and if the police wanted to know who and what happened in relation to the recent homicides, it wouldn’t be difficult to find out. Multiple residents told the commissioner these things are discussed in the neighborhoods of St. Thomas.
Velinor said it is not just the job of the police, but an entire community effort that brings about progress in unsolved crimes. “If you see something, say something,” he said.
To solve these homicides, the commissioner promised the community would see a lot more policing in the Hospital Ground area.
“As people enter that area, and other areas throughout our islands, you are going to have engagement with the police officers asking you ‘where are you going,’ ‘what’s your business on our streets, our roadways,’ asking you for identification. We are going to focus our energies towards two things: one is getting justice for those who have been adversely impacted and continuing to maintain the safety relative to COVID-19,” Velinor said.
The VIPD’s St. Thomas-St. John District Chief Ludrick Thomas said all available manpower has been dispatched to the area already and the department would spare no expense to find out what happened in recent events.
But the residents who called in with questions and comments were highly skeptical of police efforts.
One St. Thomas resident said “this is craziness” that there can be three nearly consecutive fatalities and that people can’t speak up because, “at the end of the day we need to build back the trust between the police department and the community.”
Another resident said the lack of trust exists because people have been anonymous informants to the VIPD only to be outed to friends and family, bringing serious backlash to those who spoke up.
Velinor said he recognized the need to build trust between the people and the department but still maintained the stance that if homicides are to get solved in a timely manner it requires help from the community.
The commissioner also had a warning for those who perpetrated the violent crimes, saying, “I want you to know we are coming for you.”