Police moving Four Winds Plaza substation to Housing Authority offices in Anna's Retreat
Published: October 8, 2013
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The V.I. Housing Authority and the V.I. Police Department are working together in a relationship that officials hope will prove beneficial to the community and to police.
The relationship includes the Housing Authority providing space at its Central Office in Anna's Retreat on St. Thomas for a Police Department substation to replace the one at Four Winds Plaza. In exchange, the Police Department is providing community-oriented policing in the nearby Tutu Hi-Rise housing community.
Government House issued a prepared statement Monday announcing the signing of a memorandum of agreement last week between the Housing Authority and the V.I. government through the Police Department that included relocation of the Mariel C. Newton Command, commonly called Zone C, to the Housing Authority's Central Office building.
"The safety of all residents is of paramount importance, so it makes perfect sense to move our police facilities closer to areas that have highly concentrated populations, like public housing. I firmly believe that community policing will help resolve many of our crime issues, especially when aligned with programs to reduce gang activities, provide more after-school options, stress the importance of early learning, and continued emphasis on education and recreation," Gov. John deJongh Jr. said in the release.
The Zone C Substation already has moved and police began operating from the lower floor of the Housing Authority's Central Office building in Anna's Retreat on Friday.
The agreement "outlines the continued relationship between the Police Department and Housing Authority for improved safety and quality of life for the residents of the territory's housing communities," according to Government House.
"The partnership will effectuate community policing that will allow the police and residents to work together to improve safety through patrols, surveillance and programs for the youth," Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham said in the Government House statement. "We are asking all of our residents that care about their community to work with the V.I. Housing Authority and Police Department to reclaim the vibrant communities that produced outstanding and productive citizens through the ages."
The Tutu Hi-Rise housing community and surrounding neighborhood have been plagued in recent years with a high crime rate, Graham told The Daily News on Monday.
He praised deJongh and Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr. in moving forward with the memorandum of agreement.
"They clearly understand that community policing will help resolve some of the criminal activities and elements in the communities," Graham said. "When we address those elements in the community, we can change the dynamic and perhaps have a more positive energy in the community."
The eight-page agreement outlines a variety of "overarching goals and objectives," including reducing crime in and around public housing communities through community policing, and engaging residents in crime prevention through neighborhood watch, education, youth-oriented recreation programs, drug and alcohol programs and employment opportunities.
Included in the memorandum of agreement is mention of the lease of 3,717 square feet of the first floor at the Housing Authority Central Office building for the substation, along with the 3,648 square feet of Housing Authority space near the Anna's Retreat basketball courts that police already use for their Crime Prevention and School Security units.
Graham said that the Housing Authority is not charging the Police Department rent.
Querrard said the Police Department had rented the Zone C Command space in Four Winds Plaza for $2,091.88 per month, which means the department will be saving just more than $25,000 per year in rent with the move. However, Querrard said that he believes the agreement will bring much, much more.
"It's a win-win situation for everybody," he said.
The agreement will "usher in an enhanced relationship within the nearby community," Querrard said in the Government House statement. "Having a visible presence in this community will have multiple benefits but will especially allow the community's youth a better chance to interact with police in a positive and informal manner."
Officers, he said, will be encouraged to "walk and talk" and establish a rapport with the neighborhood.
St. Thomas Police Chief Darren Foy said the new substation and the community policing initiative are a morale booster for police as well.
The agreement also includes a list of services to be provided by the Police Department, including daily inspections by patrol officers in designated public housing communities and consultations with Housing Authority property managers at designated communities at least three times a week on two shifts.
Police retrofitted the area on the first floor of the Housing Authority's office building to be a substation, including having a holding cell built, Querrard said. He did not have the exact amount police spent on the project readily available Monday night, he said.
Graham said that the space in the Central Office building became available as operations at the Housing Authority became more decentralized as part of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development initiative.
The memorandum of agreement calls for the possible lease of Housing Authority property on St. Croix as well, in particular at the John F. Kennedy, Aureo Diaz Heights, or William's Delight housing communities. However, nothing is definitive in any of those locations yet.
Graham said the reason that the initiative moved forward first on St. Thomas was because police needed the space.
"It's an opportunistic situation," he said. "They needed to move from the current location, and this location provides them with easier access to a main thoroughfare and quicker turnaround time to reach emergency situations."
Some William's Delight residents who regularly attend Housing Authority meetings expressed interest at last month's meeting in getting police more involved in their community and starting a Neighborhood Watch program there.
The V.I. Housing Authority had its own Police Department from approximately 1994 to December 2002, when the unit was disbanded after the Department of Housing and Urban Development ended its Drug Elimination Grant program.
- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.