Aug. 18, 2005 National Crime Prevention Council president Al Lenhardt is a cheerleader when it comes to touting crime prevention, and his appearance at a meeting Thursday on St. John brought up a host of issues facing the island.
"I'm pepped, but I need to hear exactly what I can do," the Rev. Charles Crespo said after Lenhardt spoke at length about the need for the community to come together to fight crime.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen hosted the meeting.
Lenhardt, speaking to the three dozen people gathered at the Legislature building, said it was up to everyone in the room to solve the problem.
However, Coral Bay Community Council president Sharon Coldren spoke of the frustration that comes when witnesses take the time to go to the police station to file a report but don't see any results.
"We continue to see the same person doing it," she said.
Deputy Police Chief Angelo Hill told Coldren that a case involving the arrest of a juvenile caught committing crimes in the Coral Bay area resulted in the release of the juvenile to his parents. Coldren said that this was the first time she had heard the outcome, despite calls to Hill looking for answers.
She said it takes two hours for the police to respond when called to Coral Bay. She was told at a public/private sector crime group meeting that because the Coral Bay community was wealthy, it should hire its own security and forensics person, she said.
Disputing the wealthy label, she asked if the community should go in that direction.
Lenhardt told her it was not a good idea because it would isolate the community. "It must be a cooperative effort," he said.
Coral Bay residents also asked Hill for a police presence at that end of the island, but he said he was short staffed.
"Our major obstacle is funding," he said.
Two officers who had been assigned to Coral Bay both retired, he said. He has not been able to replace them, Hill added.
The Legislature allocated $250,000 for a Coral Bay police substation, but it has not come to pass. St. John Administrator Julien Harley said he's been told that it can't be built for that amount of money.
One man said the permissiveness that leads to crime starts with things like people driving past the police station, as well as his house, playing loud music.
The subject moved on to the racial and class divide facing St. John.
"The culture clash is the unspoken conflict in the community," Safety Zone director Iris Kern said.
Jacqueline Jacobs said this meeting could serve as a platform for future meetings on solving crime problems.
Lenhardt will also speak Saturday at a similar forum on St. Croix. It runs from 9 a.m. to noon at the St. Croix Educational Complex Auditorium.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.