Aug. 20, 2004 – Recent crimes have prompted renewed concern for setting up a police substation to serve St. John's eastern end — an idea that has been the subject of discussions for nearly two decades.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley said a recent daylight home invasion-robbery and the armed robbery of tourists at the Concordia Eco-Tents resort have prompted police to look at a number of ways to keep such crimes from occurring in the future.
"We must have a sense of urgency in the Coral Bay, John's Folly and East End area," Harley said on Wednesday, citing the threat of change to "the way of life in St. John … and we can't have that." He also said conversations with police officials have given him the sense that actions are being taken to address the recent crimes.
Over the course of a few days, St. John police logged three armed robberies — which is all but unheard-on the island. One occurred in the Cruz Bay area and the other two, east of Coral Bay. In the most recent incident, on Sunday afternoon, two people were confronted by armed robbers in an East End home. On Aug. 11, the two Concordia resort guests were surprised at night by armed assailants.
A suspect has been arrested in connection with the Cruz Bay incident, in which a man was struck on the head and robbed last Friday. Harley said authorities are actively investigating the other two cases.
"We had a couple of robberies — armed robberies — and armed robbery on St. John, there's no such thing," Harley said. He said he told St. John Deputy Police Chief Angelo Hill "there must be a sense of urgency." He added, "and positive things have happened since then."
Hill was not available for comment on Thursday but a police administrator at the Leander Jurgen Command in Cruz Bay said law-enforcement efforts on St. John have been stepped up in recent days.
On Aug. 9, Cruz Bay was the scene of the first of three town meetings being held by Police Commissioner Elton Lewis. He said then that the Police Department had received permission from the Port Authority to construct a substation in Coral Bay at a location now being used to house an emergency vehicle used by the volunteer group St. John Rescue.
However, Lewis said, money appropriated by the Legislature to construct the substation has been redirected and is no longer available.
Senator at-Large Almando "Rocky" Liburd said on Thursday, however, that it may just be a matter of getting the Office of Management and Budget to release the funds.
"We moved $250,000. It was [Sen. Roosevelt] David and I," Liburd said. "The problem is that OMB has not released it as yet … We're saying that this is a priority, and it has to be moved right away."
Harley said he is willing to do what he can to help secure the funding. "I'm going to try to see where we can help the commissioner come up with this $250,000 to put up a building, because it's definitely needed," he said. "And if you realize what's been happening in the last couple of weeks, especially in the Coral Bay, East End area, it's even more important now."
Liburd said re-establishing a police presence in Coral Bay has been part under discussion since he was first voted into office in the early 1990s. "Ever since I was a senator I have talked about that," he said. "Coral Bay used to have eight police officers. We used to have a policeman in Coral Bay who used to live there and used to stay there."
Concordia resident manager Shay Copeland said she is glad to hear that government officials are making efforts toward establishing a police presence in the area. "My opinion would be, absolutely, to set up the substation, right away," she said. "But if they can't, at least a police presence with a car stationed in Coral Bay. It's long overdue."
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