The horrendous increase of violent crimes is on our minds. Young men killing one another is on our minds. Gun violence and deaths have taken more lives than COVID-19.
According to The Daily News of Oct. 27, 2020, we’ve recorded our 42nd homicide. How is it that we’ve been able to keep under control COVID-9, but not gun violence?
“In recent years, violence has become a way of life and a topic of major concern here in the Virgin Islands.” (Dilsa Rohan Capdeville, The Daily News, May 5, 1998).
Thirty-two years later, her statement remains true. At the rate we’re moving, the younger generation might likely wipe out or reduce their numbers before someone can come up with and answer to our gun-violence problem.
According to The Daily News’ Extra! (Oct. 17, 2020) — and I’m in agreement with the author — for the most part, “The V.I. Police can do its part by getting illegal guns off the streets, conducting traffic stops, and updating the public on cases solved, especially when suspects in murder cases have themselves been killed.”
On the other hand, however, (I may appear to be somewhat subjective inasmuch as I served as a police officer for over 41 years) I have seen police officers making traffic stops. In addition, the Police Department has been making quick arrests of late.
In police work, however, after a crime is committed — especially homicide — the next 48 hours become crucial with respect to the viability of success. Here is where the general public’s input is needed – and the community has responded for the most part. There seems to be some improvement in trust in the relationship between the police and the community. Residents have a moral duty to assist the police to contain problems in our community. Each citizen can select a police officer whom he or she trusts with information, and tell him or her. Each of us has a role in helping to reduce gun violence. We’re all in the boat together. If the Police Department fails, we fail too.
Another factor to consider, which plays a major role in getting illegal guns on our streets, is that unlike the mainland states, the Virgin Islands does not maintain a border patrol that monitors the territory’s shores. Instead, it must rely on the federal government for this type of assistance. And, based upon reports, they have been able to intercept illegal drugs as well as illegal guns trying to sneak their way into our community.
Another factor that hampers police efforts to some degree is budget austerity. VIPD is expected to deliver the same high-level service with relatively fewer resources. So, it is imperative that VIPD’s commissioner and his administrators maximize productivity through the effective use of precious resources.
Crime prevention covers a wide range of activities, among them eliminating associated social conditions and reducing the situation in which crimes are most likely to be committed. Life matters, and the ugly rate of violence is a threat to the welfare of our community. While foot patrol is more expensive than vehicular patrol and the latter increases efficiency, once in a while officers should park and walk to ensure a degree or police connectivity with the general public. Most of the violence being committed are by males between the ages of 16 to 26. Their way of resolving disputes is with a gun, placing little value on their lives or that of others. Something must be done about that.
I started out by seeking an answer to gun violence, but I do not have an answer except that each of us should look into the mirror.
— Al M. Donastorg Sr., a retired paralegal and police captain, resides on St. Thomas.