July 29, 2002 – Concerned merchants and other business owners getting ready to initiate a community crime watch program in Frederiksted cited the need for a stronger police presence and better street lighting at a meeting Sunday with police officials, and they got pledges of support in return.
St. Croix Alive hosted the meeting at Pier 69 to solicit input and assistance from the Police Department toward curtailing crime that group members said is affecting the town's economy. Last spring, Carnival Cruise Lines took St. Croix off the itinerary for two large ships that had been calling semiweekly year 'round at Frederiksted, citing crime against passengers and crew as the reason.
Simone Palmer of Sand Castle on the Beach, an intimate beach resort south of the fish market, said business has been extremely slow in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the mainland. She said she would like to be able to ensure that Frederiksted is safe for her guests.
"I think we are off to a very good start," Palmer said, referring to Sunday's meeting. "People are coming together to make positive steps to the crime solution. Certainly, a lot of items would need our help."
She said Police Commissioner Franz Christian has pledged to increase police patrols along the road that leads to her resort and the Vincent Mason Pool Recreational Facility, among other properties.
Christian told the gathering that he is pleased with the additional officers who have just graduated from the V.I. police academy and that another class will begin soon.
Two months ago, Police Chief Novelle Francis said at a meeting with Tourism officials that a grant had been received to purchase surveillance cameras to be mounted on St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. Christian said the waterfront surveillance project should begin this week, and that he would ask Francis to assign a patrol car exclusively to Frederiksted in the evenings.
Also discussed were the need for street lighting in what are now dark areas, bicycle licensing and safety, and the enforcement of loitering laws. Christian and Gregory Francis, St. Croix administrator, said they will work with the Water and Power Authority and the Housing, Parks and Recreation Department to review lighting needs. WAPA officials have said they cannot expand street lighting until the government provides the money for doing so.
Anyone aware of an area that needs street lighting is asked to call the FEDA office at 719-6025.
Cpl. Sheila Middleton of the Police Department's Neighborhood Watch Program offered suggestions to the group.
Unise Tranberg, business owner and president of the Frederiksted Economic Development Association, said afterward that it was "a great meeting." She added, "It was a good turnout, and I met some new business owners. That means everyone is interested in making a change in this community."
Tranberg said that Dodson James, assistant commissioner of Housing Parks and Recreation, said he would rally public housing residents to join in community watch programs. The future of Housing Authority Police operations are uncertain because of the impending loss of federal funding.
Palmer said on Monday, "We need to bring back the good times. We are looking to have things turn around."
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