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HomeNewsLocal newsOfficials Urge a Concerned St. John Community to Join PSN

Officials Urge a Concerned St. John Community to Join PSN

St. John businessman Donald Schnell shares his concerns with Police Captain Sandra Colbourne at Wednesday’s Project Safe Neighborhoods meeting. (Source photo by Judi Shimel)
St. John businessman Donald Schnell shares his concerns with Police Capt. Sandra Colbourne at Wednesday’s Project Safe Neighborhoods meeting. (Source photo by Judi Shimel)

A group of concerned St. John residents and business owners sat down Wednesday night with members of law enforcement to learn more about a national program designed to curb violent crime.

Police, past and current members of the Legislature and federal officials were on hand for the second meeting of the island’s Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative.

Targeting violent offenders and drug traffickers for criminal prosecution is mentioned as a priority for PSN. At the meeting, held in the Cleone Creque Legislative Conference Room, Assistant U.S. Attorney Natasha Baker offered a broader introduction.

Baker described her role as the PSN coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She also described a partnership made up of local and federal law enforcers and prosecutors joined by faith-based leaders, business people, civic groups and social service providers.

Attendees at the meeting included shop owners, part-time residents, a representative of the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, pastor of the Prayer House of Faith, a retired park ranger, a taxi driver, the project manager for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church, and a former senator-at-large.

Baker addressed the group, stating, “the community leaders such as yourselves, you are on the ground; you see what’s happening. You have great relationships with those around you, whether it’s through your kids, whether it’s through your career. Either way, you have connections that are needed to help us bring down crime in our community.”

The commander of the Cruz Bay police station and the deputy chief of the Leander Jurgens Command also addressed the group, explaining the importance of their participation.

Zone Commander Sandra Colbourne began by offering an opinion on what an effective crime prevention group can and cannot be expected to do. Deputy Police Chief Clayton Brown dispelled notions that any part of St. John or the Virgin Islands is immune from crime.

“The more people are involved in helping the police, the better we do at solving crimes and stopping problems in our area,” Brown said.

Meeting attendees congratulated police on the recent arrest of a suspect in the St. John Bracelet Co. shooting and armed robbery. Mongoose Junction Shopping Center business owner Beverly Lockett said she looked forward to police making arrests in the February 2023 robbery of the Little Switzerland jewelry store.

Attendees wanting to continue their involvement  will be invited to monthly meetings where they can learn more about the pillars of the PSN initiative — community engagement, prevention and intervention, focus and strategic enforcement and accountability.

Those with a clear understanding of the concepts and how to effectively use resources made available through PSN can help identify problems and trends, raise awareness in the wider community and steer people who show a tendency toward lawlessness away from bad influences.

Baker wrapped up her presentation by inviting the group to join St. Thomas and St. Croix citizens who have helped establish PSN community partnerships.

“We have an uphill path which is absolutely doable as long as we have the involvement of all of the partners onboard. And we need qualified persons on all three of the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas cannot be expected to address St. John issues. We need St. Johnians on board to help us to understand what St. John needs,” the program coordinator said.

Anyone interested in more information about the PSN initiative can visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-vi/project-safe-neighborhood.

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