Aug. 6, 2004 – The current state of the Cruz Bay ferry dock makes the island look like "Stalag St. John," resident Craig Barshinger said at a town meeting hosted by Delegate Donna M. Christensen Friday evening at the Legislature Building in Cruz Bay.
On July 1, the Port Authority, acting on orders from the federal government, set up gated fences on the ferry dock to keep passengers from coming and going on the ferries without scrutiny.
Barshinger's reference was to German prisoner of war camps in World War II. The term is probably best known today from the 1953 Billy Wilder film "Stalag 17," for which William Holden won an Oscar.
Others at Friday's meeting also complained about the "security" setup.
"The gates are farcical. Seven feet over you can land a boat on land," resident Iris Kern observed as nearly 20 other residents listened.
Calling it a waste of time, energy and money, Kern said the island is not one iota safer with the dock fencing.
Christensen said homeland security from the federal perspective is at the stage of "one size fits all." However, St. John Administrator Julien Harley said the Port Authority is working on a longer-term plan that may make the dock security situation more reasonable.
Barshinger said those in charge of security should involve St. John residents in the decision-making process.
Meanwhile, resident Alfredo Alejo pointed out, anyone can drive aboard the barges that transport cars and trucks back and forth between St. John and St. Thomas. There is no gate and no inspection.
"You can get a lot more stuff in the trunk of a car than a knapsack," Christensen agreed, alluding to the fact that a trunk can hold a lot more explosives.
She recalled that when she held a similar meeting last Sept. 12 on St. John, the island's porous borders, with undocumented aliens coming ashore in sizable waves, were the major concern. While the Port Authority "secured" the dock in a fashion many residents see as overkill, no government agency has done anything to prevent the steady stream of illegal aliens.
However, Christensen said help is one the way in the form of legislation she has introduced in Congress to have the U.S. Border Patrol send agents to the territory. She said expects to see them on duty by the end of 2005.
While she has tacked her proposal on as an amendment to a bill to reauthorize the Homeland Security Department, she said she doesn't think it will fly in that form. So, she also has introduced it as a separate bill.
Christensen said the greatest threat to the nation's security comes from animosity toward the United States. "It's really about improving our relations and regaining our moral authority," she said as she discussed her work on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security.
She said that before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., the United States was "in la-la land thinking nobody hated us."
Friday's meeting was the second of three called by Christensen to discuss the findings of "The 9/11 Commission Report" issued recently and related security concerns. The first was held Wednesday on St. Thomas. The third will take place on St. Croix next Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at St. Gerard's Hall in Frederiksted. (See "V.I. Partly Prepared for Terrorism, Delegate Says".)
"The 9/11 Commission Report" can be accessed online in .pdf format at the 9/11 Commission Web site. It's available in paperback format at most bookstores, and copies of a summary of the contents are available at Christensen's offices on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John and in Washington, D.C.
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