August 23, 2004 – The Divi Carina Bay Hotel and Resort was jumping to the sounds of calypso bands on Sunday afternoon. The event was a way for the community and the V. I. Police Department to mingle in a relaxed atmosphere.
The occasion was part of a community fundraising initiative designed to create a better relationship between the community and the police force. During the day the crowd was entertained by three bands: Xtaushan, Xpress and Rico and the All Stars. Activities included a tug of war, volleyball games and a demonstration by the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) marine unit. Divi chefs served up a tasty lunch.
"The events help bring back a cohesiveness between the community and the police," said Commissioner Elton Lewis who was on hand to enjoy the camaraderie. The commissioner believes that the efforts of the Community Relations Committee have been paying off. "I can sense that the tide is turning," said Lewis. "We need to keep up the momentum," he added.
Police legal counsel and a member of the VIPD Community Relations Committee, Daniel Matarangas-King said the event was a chance for the community to "hang out with the VIPD." Dressed in a colorful tropical shirt and a straw hat, Matarangas-King said contact with police doesn't always have to be in an official capacity. "We don't always have to meet in a negative situation," he said.
Ayanda Daniels coordinates the efforts of the committee in the office of the chief of police. "The events have turned out better than we expected, we've had tremendous support from the community."
Sylvia and Richard Petersen were enjoying a plate of local fare. Their reason for attending went a bit farther than the luncheon. "We are here to support our police, to help them do their job." The Petersens live in Southgate Hills. On Aug. 7 police responded to an incident in Southgate East and discovered that a 53-year-old woman used her licensed firearm to shoot an alleged burglar who had entered her home shortly before midnight.
The Petersens said that the neighbors in their area have set up a neighborhood watch program. "We alert each other through a phone tree, turning on our outside lights and blowing air horns," said Sylvia Petersen.
Event Coordinator Kevin Jackson was pleased at the turnout. "It's good to see a cross section of the population here today, we are all on the same wavelength, it's a first."
Jackson said the idea for the series of fundraisers coupled with the need to increase good police/community relations was born from a conversation between friends. The group discussed the increasing crime, home invasions and the murder of Police Officer Cuthbert Chapman.
Chapman died on April 26, nine days after being hospitalized with gunshot wounds sustained in an April 17 robbery attempt at the Wendy's restaurant in Sunny Isle Shopping Center, where he was working as an off-duty security officer. See "See Hundreds bid farewell to slain police officer"). So far the events have included a cocktail party at the Cormorant Beach Club on Aug. 6, and there is an ongoing raffle that gives the winner a choice of a 2004 Honda Accord or CRV. The raffle drawing will be held on Sunday, Aug. 29. See "Series of Community Events to Raise Funds for Police").
Organizers hope to raise at least $50,000, which will be used purchase supplies, facilitate training and foster community support.
Jackson said the committee provides a way for residents to exhibit philanthropic leadership to effectively manage and direct the resources of community donors in ways that enrich and enhance the quality of work for the men and women of the V. I. Police Department. And residents are stepping up to the plate.
V.I. residents, Bob and Connie Scheigert, donated $24,000 to purchase the vehicle that is being raffled. "We thought that the killing of Officer Chapman was such a travesty, we need to arm our police force with the latest technology available," said Bob Scheigert. Scheigert said that it seemed that people were not stepping forward to do any thing so he and his wife Connie got involved. "We all need to do our share," said Connie.
Public donations will be placed in an escrow account, maintained by a local attorney for specific needs of the department. Jackson said the money that is raised on St. Croix will stay on St. Croix and will not go in to the government general fund.
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