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Law-Enforcement Officials Praise Public for Help Prosecuting Violent Crimes

Feb. 4, 2008 — When Police and Justice officials said Monday they would use "everything in their arsenal" to combat crime in the territory, they weren't talking weapons — they were talking about tapping into a new level of community involvement that has, over the past few weeks, secured several arrests.
Most recently, witnesses were able to lead law-enforcement officials to the doorstep of Lemy Vergile, a Haitian native charged last week with brutally beating, burning and killing 41-year-old Paulette Joseph in the area of Frenchman's Bay Estates. Witnesses were calling in to dispatchers soon after the incident, reporting that they had seen Joseph's body being dumped on one of the area's private roads, testified Police Corporal Delbert Phipps Sr. during a hearing last week in V.I. Superior Court. Two residents subsequently followed Vergile to an Estate Thomas residence, and phoned in his whereabouts.
During a joint press conference held on St. Thomas, Police Commissioner James H. McCall and Attorney General Vincent Frazer stressed that cooperation from the public, much like in the case of Vergile, is the backbone of law-enforcement efforts geared toward catching and apprehending criminals.
"Good information leads to a timely arrest and the development of strong cases, so we reiterate the importance of people coming forward with information as much as possible," Frazer said. Witnesses in the Vergile case will given a reward — an initiative the attorney general said would continue as long as community members keep up their involvement.
"We have to provide some kind of incentive, and we're going to continue to disburse funds to individuals that continue to help us with solving crimes," Frazer said.
Senators only recently mandated, through a comprehensive crime bill, that Justice set up a full-fledged — and fully funded — witness-protection program. The department has still offered its assistance in the interim, helping various witnesses with relocation expenses in the territory and abroad.
Some $500,000 in funding for the program has not yet been released by the government, Frazer explained, and money currently used to compensate witnesses is coming out of both departments' general funds, along with private donations made by community members. Once the money is released, however, Justice will have "certain discretionary funds" that can be used for compensating or relocating witnesses, Frazer said.
"We need to protect our citizens from the individuals who prey upon them," McCall added. "And we intend to do everything within our power and ability to bring those who violated the law to justice."
Community involvement is the "key to any joint success" between the two departments, McCall said. Shortly after coming on board as the police commissioner, McCall announced that he and Frazer would work hand in hand to arrest and prosecute criminals.
On Monday, McCall said certain VIPD initiatives — some backed by the power of other law-enforcement agencies and task forces — have also helped to wrap up a few outstanding cases, net a number of illegal firearms and ammunition and spur at least three sting operations within the last month.
Starting off the list of homicides in 2007, police reported that 24-year-old Jovan Joseph of Estate Anna's Hope on St. Croix was stabbed last January in an attack by a group of four men near the children's rides at the island's Festival Village. Joseph later died at the Juan Luis Hospital of a single stab wound, police said.
On Monday, McCall announced that the recently launched Operation Roundup had led to the arrest of nine individuals VIPD suspect were involved in the homicide. Three of the suspects — Angel Ilaraza, Ramon Cruz and Julio Cruz — will be charged with murder, McCall said. Six of the others arrested were juveniles, ranging in age from 16 to 18.
Over the weekend, the launch of Operation Pace Setter — spearheaded by the VIPD and Project Safe Streets, along with drug enforcement and marine task forces — led to three other arrests on St. Croix: Justin Sunsun of Estate Concordia, Emanuel Guerra (charged with first-degree robbery) and 24-year-old Jakari Charles of William's Delight.
A third sting, conducted last week, also brought in several rounds of ammunition and firearms, McCall said.
"I think these initiatives show that we are persistent and will continue to track down the perpetrators of any violent crime within the community," McCall said. He added, however, that the increase in juvenile crime calls for a corresponding increase in adult supervision to "prevent these incidences from happening."
Summing up the message of Monday's press conference, McCall and Frazer said they would take a page out of the governor's book and adhere to statements recently made during the State of the Territory Address.
"I am not now, and have never been, in the business of 'explaining away' the acts of violent criminals," Gov. John deJongh Jr. said in his speech. "Our goal is to prevent crime and punish criminals. To do the former, we must turn to parents, to families, to teachers and coaches and say, 'We must all do our jobs, and do them better.' To punish criminals, we must first catch them, then prosecute them."
Now, with more information under their belts, the combined force of VIPD and Justice will do just that, McCall and Frazer said.
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