A two-day Caribbean Homeland Security Conference and Training Event opened Tuesday at the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef Hotel on St. Thomas with Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp calling for greater focus on securing the borders of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
A statement released by Government House said Mapp addressed an audience which included U.S. Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Michael G. Potts along with federal and local law enforcement agency representatives from the United States mainland, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
The governor noted that the territory has roughly 117 miles of open border, and that local resources are inadequate to police them as required. He called for increased deployment of law enforcement resources to the region, and urged that the security issues in the Caribbean be assessed according to the interests of the United States rather than just those of the region.
Mapp told the room of security professionals that he was not being critical of the current strategy, but was making the point that local resources are not enough to combat growing problems such as human trafficking, drug smuggling, and violent crime. The governor said that in light of the gun violence in the territory, he intends to use all resources available to his administration to reduce crime among young people.
Mapp urged parents to speak up if they are aware that their children possess firearms, reminding parents that it is easier to have a discussion about a firearm than to plan a funeral for an offspring.
The Virgin Islands has been designated as a Fusion Center, where information and intelligence are collected, analyzed, and disseminated. The concentration of resources at various Fusion Centers throughout the nation is a part of the overall strategy to combat a range of security issues including terrorism.
The conference continues Wednesday morning with comments by Mona Barnes, director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and V.I. Police Commissioner Delroy Richards. There will be discussions on chemical terrorism, counter-terrorism, the Coast Guard Investigative Services and many other topics.