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Territory Could Be Major Player in Fight Against Caribbean Crime

For the first time in almost two decades, local officials have reached out to the U.S. State Department and because of that, the territory could be pulled in as a major partner in national crime-fighting efforts targeting the Caribbean region.
Introduced last year by President Barack Obama, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) pools the nation’s crime fighting and military resources and creates a "heightened level of communication and intelligence sharing" among Caribbean countries and their European allies, according to a Government House news release.
Meeting Monday with State Department officials, Gov. John deJongh Jr. began efforts to have the territory included in the initiative, which is aimed at fighting the growing levels of violent crime and drug trafficking plaguing the region.
"This meeting was significant as it marked, for the first time, the State Department’s acknowledgment of the vital role the V.I. will have to play in the success of CBSI and the first time that the State Department has initiated a substantive partnership in a regional challenge," deJongh said in the statement.
Fighting the widespread crime in the region will take a "robust security strategy" focused more on internal threats, such as rival gangs and drug cartels, he added.
"The State Department officials acknowledged that no island, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, can fight this epidemic alone and that coordination between the Caribbean, the United States and the international community is vital," deJongh said.
The governor also updated U.S. State officials on the territory’s challenges and efforts to remain involved in regional affairs. He also laid out the V.I. National Guard’s plans to build a multi-million dollar regional training facility that could help with the development of law enforcement throughout the region.
"We very much want to be at the table when this regional solution is defined," he said, adding that anti-crime and anti-drug initiatives beginning to take hold in the region have sent more criminals toward the territory, which remains vulnerable because of open shorelines.
DeJongh said he left the meeting "confident" that department officials understood how the territory has remained involved in regional affairs and the need for the U.S. Virgin Islands to be actively involved in the national crime fighting efforts.

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