India Association wants heavier police presence downtown after armed robberies at jewelry stores Armed robberies of St. Thomas jewelry stores:


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ST. THOMAS - The India Association is concerned about the recent armed jewelry store robberies in downtown Charlotte Amalie - and the impact the robberies could have on tourism, individual businesses and the territory's economy as a whole.

"It affects the whole Virgin Islands," India Association President Mulo Alwani said Tuesday.

Saturday morning, Imperial Jewelers was robbed at gunpoint by seven men who made off with a large amount of gold, diamonds and other jewelry.

Two tourist couples were in the store at the time.

Police acted quickly in responding to 911 calls from witnesses, and six of the gunmen were arrested - four adults and two minors - and some of the stolen jewelry was recovered.

No one was hurt in the incident.

It was the fifth armed robbery of a jewelry store on Main Street or in Havensight in the last 12 months, according to Pash Daswani, owner of Lucky Jewelers and vice president of the India Association.

Gold Corner was robbed twice; Seven Wonders was robbed twice and has since gone out of business; Goldland was robbed and the owner assaulted; Majestic Jewelers in Havensight was robbed; and now Imperial Jewelers has joined the list.

Daswani said the association has decided to speak out publicly about the robberies because 95 percent of its members are in the jewelry retail industry.

"We understand that being in this business, you are going to be a target," Daswani said.

However, the impact of the robberies goes far beyond the individual stores that were robbed, or the Indian community, Alwani said.

If the next time a robbery occurs, a tourist is injured or killed, visitors will stop coming to St. Thomas, he said.

"It's going to hurt all of us," he said.

"If the Virgin Islands fails to address the basic safety needs of its visitors and residents alike during daylight hours in key shopping districts, we are fighting an uphill battle to maintain the economic benefits we derive from this, our primary contributor to the territory's Gross Domestic Product," the India Association said in a press release.

The association has appealed to the V.I. Police Department to step up uniformed patrols in the downtown district and get to the root of the problems.

"While naive to assume that a uniformed police presence would entirely eliminate the risk of armed robberies, it is unquestionable that such presence would serve as a deterrent to perpetrators of robberies in our shopping districts, and would also ensure a more appropriate response time for any incidents that do occur," the India Association said in the press release.

Alwani said he wants to know where these criminals are selling the stolen merchandise. On an island this small, it should not be too hard to figure out what is going on, he said. "The police have to get to the source of this," Alwani said. "Where are the guys getting the guns from and who's buying the jewelry?"

Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr. did not return calls for comment by press time Tuesday.

Police spokeswoman Melody Rames said the V.I. Police Department has working cameras and officers on patrol in the downtown district and directed further inquiries to Querrard.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

March 15 - Seven masked gunmen robbed Imperial Jewelers about 9:40 a.m.

December 2013 - Three masked gunmen robbed Goldland Jewelers and assaulted the owner about 9:30 a.m.

Sept. 16, 2013 - A man robbed the Drake's Passage store, Gold Corner, at gunpoint about 10 a.m.

July 13, 2013 - Four masked men with two handguns robbed Seven Wonders jewelry store about 9:30 a.m.

April 20, 2013 - Three masked men, two of whom were carrying handguns, robbed Seven Wonders about 11 a.m.

April 14, 2012 - Two armed men wearing ski masks robbed Majestic Jewelers in Havensight about 1 p.m.

October 26, 2011 - A masked man brandishing a gun robbed Gold Corner about 11:30 a.m.

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