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Wednesday, December 7, 2022


Aug. 8, 2002 – Sirens, whistles and chants broke the silence as a parade of about 100 residents, including members of community groups and law enforcement agencies, set out to let drug dealers and other criminal elements know that they will not be allowed to continue business as usual on St. Croix.
The show of solidarity on Tuesday evening at Estate Grove Place, in observance of the territory's 15th annual Night Out against Drugs, Crime and Violence, was an act of neighborhood togetherness.
Nationwide, it was the 19th Night Out, with events in more than 9,700 communities, including military installations, aimed at helping deter crime by organizing neighborhood surveillance programs and motivating communities to get involved.
For their part, Crucians took a two-mile trek from the Eulalie Rivera Professional Development School to the Isaac Boynes Recreational Facility in the heart of the Grove Place community. Along the route, participants chanted "Stop the violence! Increase the peace!"
Once an area commandeered by drug dealers openly peddling their wares, Grove Place now is home to the Weed and Seed Program for young people next door to the area fire station.
As residents lined the street waiting for march participants carrying banners with anti-drug slogans and red, white and blue balloons, one William's Delight family secured a spot under a sprawling baobab tree more than a hundred years old.
"I came to the Night Out to enjoy myself, have fun and to represent being drug free," said Annika Greenidge, an 8th grade student at Arthur A. Richards Junior High School in Frederiksted. Her sister Indica said she learned from the event that she can remain drug free because there are communities that care.
The Harley family sat on the back of a white pickup truck cheering on the passing march led by a police escort and DJ Hapma's Ragatone Sounds.
One 30-year resident of the Grove Place community said while viewing the procession from her roadside home that she looks forward to the annual event. "It was small this year. Usually more people participate," she said. "It gives the kids productive things to do. It keeps them from getting into mischief." Her grandson is involved in the Weed and Seed Program a block away from her home.
Local businessman Ethelbert Benjamin, the guest speaker at Tuesday's rally, urged young people to make positive choices in their lives and described for them his own battle with drug addiction, which started with alcohol and grew to include crack, cocaine and heroine. "Stay away from people that use or sell drugs," Benjamin advised the youngsters. "Association creates addiction. The most dangerous association is the dealer."
Event sponsors included the Grove Place Action Committee, Police Department, Fire Service, St. Croix Drug Demand Reduction Unity Coalition and the V.I. National Guard.
Event organizer Denise Lewis, director of the Weed and Seed Program, said the evening was a success, although the turnout was smaller than for last year's event. She applauded residents for their continued support and presented them with an award given by the National Association of Town Watch to the Virgin Islands.
Drug Enforcement Agency special agent Paul Toner said the evening was an opportunity for the DEA to spread the drug-free message. "It is a big part of our mission, not just law enforcement," he said. Young people crowded around the agency's display with giveaways of red ribbons, hats, other trinkets and pamphlets. Children also viewed a video presentation on "Standing Up to Peer Pressure."
Lt. Glenda Mathurin-Lee, administrator of the Drug Demand Reduction program, urged residents to support activities such as Night Out. "It was a great showing of community spirit," she said, estimating that about 300 people enjoyed grilled burgers, chicken and refreshments. "We knew we got people's attention. Heads peeked out, and some even joined us as we walked by."
The Night Out program is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch in association with the U.S. Department of Justice.

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