August 22, 2004 – "They are stealing from the children of the Virgin Islands," is how Jacqueline Dennis, president of the V.I. Girl Scouts Council, termed the fourth burglary in two years at the Girl Scout camp on St. Croix.
The thefts are becoming "painful," according to Dennis.
Dennis said that on Aug. 15 she and others arrived at the camp to find windows smashed and a locked iron gate busted. Both buildings at the camp in a remote area of the island were broken into even though one building was empty.
The main building had 500 boxes of Girl Scouts cookies. Each box had 12 packages of cookies. Corporate sponsors had purchased the cookies and designated them to go to certain organizations. The scouts were going to distribute them, but they were all gone.
Almost in exasperation, Dennis questioned, "What are they going to do with them. They can't really sell them. Girls Scouts are the only ones who can sell them."
She asks that if anyone in the community knows of some one selling the cookies that they immediately call the police.
She said that the value of the cookies was about $15,000.
And that was not the end of the bad news. As scouting officials surveyed the camp they found that all the new landscaping equipment they had purchased a lawn mower, two weed whackers, a tool to trim trees, and a chainsaw were gone.
Dennis said, "Even the garbage can is gone." She valued the equipment, purchased through a recent Anti-Litter and Beautification grant, at about $4,000.
The scouts had invested $2,000 in the iron bars and the locks after the last burglary.
To make the camp even more secure Dennis had purchased personally four rolls of fencing that was to be installed. It won't be put up. The thieves took all four rolls value another $4,000.
Dennis termed the situation disheartening and added, "It just seems to go on and on and on."
In the most recent burglary before this one, thieves made off with a stove. Before that they had stole a new pump and tank that Girl Scouts had purchased after a fundraising drive. In the first of this series of burglaries, the culprits made off with the camp's original landscaping equipment.
As discouraging as this all might be, closing the camp is not an option that Dennis is considering. She said, "We can't let the children believe that we can be defeated."
In her distress, buoyancy still comes to her voice as she said, "We can't close the camp down. What do you think a girl asks as soon as she joins the Scouts? 'When do we go camping?'"
She is hoping that community support will come through to help the Girl Scouts get through this hard time. All the Girl Scouts in the territories use the camp on St. Croix. Right now there are 300 active Girl Scouts, but this is the end of the scouting year. A new registration drive starts in September when youngsters are back in school.
Any one wishing to help the Girl Scouts can call 772-1850 on St. Croix and 774-1054 on St. Thomas.
Dennis and others have already started to brainstorm about ideas to make the camp more secure. Ideas range from more fencing to a live-in caretaker to more visits by scouting officials.
Through all this, the scouting officials are not discouraged by the actions of the St. Croix Police Department. She said officers responded quickly to her call, have been making a thorough investigation and have been keeping in contact with scouting officials.
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