MESSAGE BY HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR AUGUSTUS JASPERT
AT JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH
THE PREMIER OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS ON SECURITY
When I first arrived in these islands, I was struck by the sheer natural beauty, engaging people and the peace and tranquility that have given these islands the name of Nature’s Little Secrets. While the Virgin Islands are of course well known in business, international finance and tourism across the world, what struck me also were the stories of how people felt safe here; and how important that is. A sense of calm and safety to walk in the early and late mornings, have family outings and some who even slept with windows and doors ajar to take in natural breezes.
As Governor, an absolute priority will always be working along with the Premier and Cabinet to ensure the safety and tranquility of these islands remain. The safety and security of citizens is the first responsibility of any Government and is the building block for a vibrant economy, a flourishing society, a safe place for children to grow and develop; and now, is vital for our recovery.
It is with this foundation I come to you this afternoon to reiterate my commitment to the safety of these islands. It is also the reason why the Premier is here this afternoon, to echo and support a Security Plan. While these islands are still relatively safe, we must do everything possible as a community to eradicate any criminal activity that jeopardises the security of these islands.
Following Hurricanes Irma and Maria the Territory was severely challenged in ensuring public safety and security. A small, and despicable, part of society took advantage of the challenges to commit crimes, in particular looting. In the face of such challenges across law enforcement agencies, I was pleased with and grateful for the assistance of the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom provided military support and funding for police officers from the UK, Cayman and Bermuda which, together with local law enforcement agencies, and in particular brave and dedicated RVIPF officers, helped to restore order to the islands.
The challenges are not all behind us. In recent weeks we have witnessed horrific shootings. Our law enforcement agencies are also having to rebuild their capabilities as with most public services. And, I am conscious of the concern that must be felt by many living in houses or working in businesses damaged by the storms, without secure windows, doors or full lighting.
With the recent spate of crimes comes a response and a message to criminals that restoring any safety lost in our community is an urgent and serious priority. Last Tuesday, the law enforcement arms and personnel of this Territory (Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, Immigration, Customs, Her Majesty’s Prison, BVI Ports Authority and BVI Airports Authority) met to discuss both the short and long term interventions and actions needed to address the security of these islands.
The Action planning of these fine agencies focused on four areas of immediate priority:
- Aggressively securing the integrity of the Territory’s borders against illicit entry of guns, people and narcotics:
- Strategically, increasing the presence, visibility and connectivity between all law enforcement agencies;
- Tactically reducing key criminal activities within the Territory; and
- Developing a cross-sector robust crime prevention and reduction plan between all law enforcement agencies.
The plan is already in progress. With the assistance of funding from the United Kingdom we have already increased the number of RVIPF firearms officers and introduced armed response vehicles; extra homicide detectives are already in the Territory working on cases; we are repairing the infrastructure and equipment of the RVIPF and - with the Ministry of Education – we are repairing HM Prison; we are increasing the number of search dogs; and we are putting in place drone surveillance capability.
Any fight on crime requires a fully functional Judiciary. Following my press statement (Friday, February 16, 2018) on the opening of Court, I would like to further note that the Court of Appeal commenced on Monday, 26th February and will sit until Friday, March 2. Equally High Court Civil matters continued.
The Criminal High Court also commenced with the hearing of a few matters at the Sakal Building and full case management will begin on 6th March, 2018. Magistrate's civil, traffic and quasi matters commenced as planned on 19th February, 2018.
However, due to an unfortunate and unforeseen delay in construction, no fault of the contractor, at the House of Assembly Building, Magistrate's Court Criminal did not commence as scheduled but I have been informed that it is now projected to commence on 6th March at the House of Assembly, subject to the House of Assembly schedule. I am grateful for the cooperation of the House of Assembly.
We will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the Judiciary is fully functional as it serves as the foundation for a lawful society.
Further, I am pleased that the Premier and Cabinet have agreed to allocate extra funding of up to $5m to deliver on our security plan. Law enforcement agencies are taking forward plans to increase scanners and searches at ports of entry to stop guns and drugs; increasing customs and police marine capability; increasing the number of CCTV cameras; are procuring the latest digital radios to ensure all agencies can talk to each other more effectively; are rolling out Tasers for RVIPF officers on patrol; and are planning joint operations across agencies.
Whilst, for obvious reasons, the specific tactics and operations cannot be exposed, the community needs to know that security in these islands is a priority. Criminals that have taken advantage of any weaknesses in security after Hurricanes Irma and Maria are should know that this behavior has no place in this Territory and it must stop now.
These islands are too special and beautiful to allow a few bad and reckless criminals who are acting lawlessly to erode the tranquility of which we are well known.
I am hugely grateful for the dedication, bravery and commitment of all who work in our law enforcement agencies to keep us safe every day.
Finally, though I want to end with an important message. The security and safety of the Territory is not just the job for the Premier, Cabinet, myself or for law enforcement agencies. It is everyone’s responsibility in every community to play their part. Safety is everyone’s responsibility.
I now invite the Honourable Premier to speak; and would like to publicly say thank you to the Premier and Cabinet for their support to the matter of national security in the Territory.