Sept. 5, 2008 — The long arm of the law has stretched down to the western end of Main Street, as Friday night's groundbreaking for a new police substation in Berne's Alley sets the stage for localized, 24-hour police presence.
While plans for the new substation await permits and other government approvals, the groundbreaking portends a new era of stepped-up law enforcement in the area. "That area has become a breeding ground for social misconduct, prostitution, and random acts of violence that needs to be hindered post haste. That is the primary motive for me to propose and establish a substation, Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone said in a statement.
The subdivision will house the department's traffic division, which includes the crossing guards and some other offices. Police cars will be parked in the lot, and there will be entrances on both Berne's Alley and Kronprindsens Gade, across from Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.
Stacey Borne, of the Bourne Group, an architectural firm in the Berne Ice Plant (as the building is known), said that an incident in a neighboring restaurant spurred her to contact the building's owner, Gary Berne, about the possibility of using some seldom-used office space nearby for a police presence in the area.
"The property has been in my family for five generations," Berne said.
The 1500-square-foot space had served as his private office.
Berne flew from Tampa, Fla., to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the new police subdivision at the Berne Ice Plant. The building is one of the oldest in Charlotte Amalie; Berne believes that parts of it date to the 1600s.
"I had no hesitation whatsoever," Berne said."This is very beneficial to the people on that end of town.
At $1 per year, Bernes is essentially donating the 35-year lease for the space, but Berne felt that some sort of police presence had been necessary for a very long time.
"This will give everybody — even up into the Savan area — closer to 24-hour police presence. It is costing me a lot of money, but I still think it is worth it," Berne said.
Although letting the police use space for a $1-a-year sounds straightforward, Bourne said that the red tape was daunting.
"He (Berne) worked through Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone's office — there was a tremendous amount of paperwork," said Bourne.
Bourne, a member of the American Institute of Architects, donated architectural services for the build-out of the substation and her contribution was not the only one. Bourne said the Catholic Church has plans for monthly collection for the substation. The business community has also come to the aid of the project by setting up registries — similar to wedding registries — at a number of local businesses.
According to a release from Malone's office, registries have been created at MSI Building Supplies (776-8800) and Office Designs By Essentials (775-5035). The registries can be found under the title "Police Department of the Virgin Islands, Traffic Division" to streamline the donation process. For more information, contact 693-3529.
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