The Public Finance Authority board approved on Tuesday $7 million in financing for 161 new V.I. Police Department vehicles, and one VIPD official said Wednesday that "all steps will be taken" to secure the ones soon to be arriving on St. Thomas.
Six out of the 27 vehicles slated for St. Croix, which had yet to be released to VIPD, were set on fire while sitting in the lot at Metro Motors, which has continued to supply the department’s cars and outfit them with the latest technology and equipment. The new fleet was set to arrive in the territory in waves, with the first 58 coming this month.
Speaking on Wednesday, St. Thomas-St. John District Police Chief Darren Foy called the act "a disgrace" and said that torching the department’s cars would prevent the territory’s officers from doing their jobs in the field.
"Why would you target police vehicles?" Foy said, speaking after a Police Week event on St. Thomas. "Those cars are going to be used for service, when people are hurt or robbed. We need to protect them and, when things like this happen, we are not able to help or protect our community."
Foy said the first set of vehicles for St. Thomas should be arriving by the end of the month and every step will be taken to secure them while VIPD waits for them to be turned over by the dealer.
The PFA’s action allows for the execution of a $7 million bank loan from Banco Popular that will be backed by gross receipts taxes. The funds were approved last year by both the Senate and Gov. John deJongh Jr. The loan is slated to be repaid in the next 54 months.
The first set of vehicles – four for St. John and 27 each for St. Thomas and St. Croix – was paid for by an advance from the PFA (to be repaid from the loan money) and will be released to VIPD once the dealer is paid in full.
Over the next year and a half, the department will also receive more patrol units, unmarked vehicles and cars, passenger vans, vehicles for the K-9 Unit, prisoner vans and a vehicle for the marine unit, according to PFA board members.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the PFA board also approved a $7.6 million budget for authority in Fiscal Year 2013, with $1.4 million of that going toward the Office of Economic Opportunity.
The re-nominations of Sports, Parks and Recreation Commissioner St. Claire Williams, Lubin Roberts, Milton Frett and Desiree Smith-Hill to the West Indian Company Ltd’s board were also approved. WICO is a subsidiary of the PFA.