Remarks By Commissioner of Police
Joint Press Conference Addressing Matters Relating to Crime and Public Safety
March 18, 2021
Good afternoon Governor, Premier, members of the press, ladies and gentlemen,
I hope this afternoon to share a policing perspective on the current crime climate and what my officers are presently doing to maintain security and a level of calm and safety within our communities.
Since September of 2020, my Major Crime Team have been investigating the deaths of eight persons, some brutally gunned down in broad daylight, within neighbourhoods and communities that has left us shaken – the latest being the brutal slaying of Mr. Deverson Williams on Tuesday [March 16th] afternoon. We have also had a number of drug seizures, within that same period of time. And while we have recorded a number of seizures over the years, I believe unique to this situation is the quantity and the short period of time during which these seizures were made. I believe that COVID travel restrictions created a stockpile and thus the reason for such large quantities.
I am not at liberty to speak to any specific case as all of these inquiries are alive and active, but I will say that we have reason to believe, in the deaths of several of these individuals, the drug trade played a factor. I will not sugarcoat it.
Interspersed, during this period, were at least two maybe three robberies with the use of a firearm in environments where people gather to socialise. Intelligence suggests these are not related to drug trade but simply the acquisition of a firearm lined up with an opportunity. These incidents resulted, however, in uneasiness within the community.
As a result, in February, four teams of officers from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force were deployed on ‘roll and search operations’ as well as on ‘mobile and foot patrols’ under the heading ‘Clean the Streets’ to cover commercial centres and primarily cash based entities during business hours.
While traffic and drug offenders were the only arrests made, the teams provided the needed reassurance to businesses and intelligence support to the officers who work behind the scene. In order to enhance the Joint Task Force relationship, Customs and Immigration officers join us in these roll and search operations around the Territory.
These Clean the Street operations have and will continue this week with the addition of more armed officers to support safer environments in the day and the night. As I said before, our efforts here is not to alarm anyone. We recognise the need for reassurance -- that Police are present and active in the community.
Presently, we have a number of U.K. Officers on short-term contracts assisting with our investigations and a number of others who will be joining shortly. For obvious reasons, the numbers of officers cannot be shared. We are also exploring specialist capabilities to infiltrate the drug trade. I have every reason to believe our efforts to quell the unease and bring, at least, a short-term end to the violence and the drug trade will be successful.
However, greater than this and bringing about justice in the brutal murder of the young male on Tuesday afternoon is the changing of mindsets. In the drug trade, guns off the streets does NOT equate to a safer community if there is, among us, murderous, greedy intent. Large drugs seizure does NOT equate to a less drugs on the streets. It only opens the way for greater demand. And unfortunately, one or two or twelve behind the prison bars just means others will take their place.
What must change is mindsets.
We have a unique opportunity to change course here. There is something exceptional about the way of life in the Territory. You enjoy a luxury of the comfort that living in a safe place can only bring. Many relocate to these shores because of it. It cannot be taken for granted. The drug culture will take that from you. If you turn a blind-eye to transshipments of drugs, the Territory, as a whole, will suffer. It promises considerable, immediate wealth in the short-term but there will be no where on earth to enjoy it -- much less a small Territory like this one. There is always someone trying to eliminate you to get the upper hand. I have only a few more weeks here in this Territory, but we will all need to think carefully about the future. If you are involved in the drug trade, reflect on where it will take you, and your family, your community and the future of this Territory.
I very much appreciate the invitation of the Premier to collaborate to restoring and maintaining security to these precious islands and to change the course. All hands must be on deck. We need to roll out CCTV Territory-wide. We will need the additional resources to fill the 44 vacancies within the Force and we will need to give the Force teeth need to bite which is offered in the new Police Act.