VIPD: We're keeping Carnival safe
Published: April 29, 2014
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ST. THOMAS - The V.I. Police Department insists that it has a handle on safety at this year's Carnival activities.
Already, two separate shooting incidents - one fatal - have taken place just outside Carnival activities this year, and J'ouvert, the event most people equate with Carnival violence, has not yet occurred.
On Saturday, a police officer shot and killed Clyde Norford, 31, on the front steps of Fort Christian just yards from the Children's Village, which had officially opened only hours earlier. Police said they are conducting an internal investigation as to whether the officer, who has not been identified, followed proper procedure, and the department has issued few details about the shooting that took place about 12:20 a.m. Saturday.
Just after 7 p.m. Sunday, three men were shot while walking by Emile Griffith Park on Veteran's Drive near where the water sports activities were winding down in St. Thomas Harbor. All three men were transported to Schneider Hospital.
"The police investigation is pointing to the fact that it was in retaliation," Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. said about the waterfront shootings. The perpetrator, or perpetrators, "took advantage of Carnival to get revenge," he said.
J'ouvert has yet to take place.
The lively early morning tramp of bands down Veterans Drive has been shut down during the last two years, and during several years prior, because of violence.
Last year, three men were wounded - one critically - after an unknown assailant fired shots in front of the ferry terminal in the midst of thousands of people celebrating J'ouvert. Police shut down the event about 9 a.m.
In 2009, police halted J'ouvert at 8:30 a.m. to tend to a 14-year-old who had been stabbed and a 19-year-old who had been shot in the area of Emile Griffith Park. Then, an hour later, when a 20-year-old man was stabbed in the sternum near Raadets Gade, police closed the event completely.
Police shut down J'ouvert about 10:45 a.m. in 2011, after intervening in fistfights among teenage girls and after two people, one a 16-year-old boy, were stabbed.
J'ouvert has not been the only problem event, though.
In 2012, as the Adult's Parade was winding down, two teenagers were shot in two separate incidents along the parade route within the span of 35 minutes.
Last year, the Carnival Village was shut down early one night after a man was shot just outside the village, near Fort Christian.
The police did not shut down the village this year after Norford's death, though the rides in the Children's Village did close after the incident.
Gov. John deJongh Jr. has been in communication with the V.I. Police Department on a regular, if not daily, basis, according to Greaux.
"He is of the belief that one shooting is one too many," Greaux said.
Neither V.I. Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr. nor St. Thomas-St. John Police Chief Darren Foy returned calls to The Daily News on Sunday or Monday.
The day after Norford was shot and killed, Querrard issued a statement calling on residents to help police keep a lid on violence in the territory and addressing his department's efforts to keep the Carnival safe.
"The Virgin islands Police Department will continue to do everything possible with the assistance of other law enforcement officers territory-wide to address the crimes and the lawlessness of some living among us," he said. "This will be expedited by each of you, our fellow citizens, doing your part.
"As for the Carnival festivities, high visibility by law enforcement officers will continue. We have taken steps to increase their presence in those areas we know to be areas where situations have occurred in the past. We have also increased drastically the lighting in those areas. These steps will deter illegal activity, and will also ease the worry of those traversing through those areas."
After meeting with department officials about a week ago, the governor felt comfortable with the V.I. Police Department's security plans for Carnival, according to Greaux.
"The problem that we have with violent crime is a community problem. It's obviously not just a police problem," he said.
Throughout Carnival, police officials have been urging the community to contact the police if they suspect or know of any activity that could lead to violent repercussions.
Both Querrard and Foy spoke to Carnival crowds on Friday at the Carnival Village opening, just a few hours before Norford's death. Police boosted the police presence within and around Carnival events, though Querrard said he would not disclose the number of officers appointed to the different areas. They also increased lighting in certain areas, one of which is the area around the fort, according to Querrard.
However, the department's efforts are not enough, according to Sen. Kenneth Gittens, chairman of the Senate's Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety Committee.
"Evidently, the tactics we are using are not working. Therefore it is time to regroup and take decisive and aggressive actions that will send a clear message to the criminals and all those who want to wreak havoc on our community," Gittens said.
However, Gittens would not give specifics about which tactics he believes are not working or what new or different strategies law enforcement officials should try.
Gittens said he has written three letters to deJongh since last April, asking to meet with the administration and develop a comprehensive plan for the police for this year's Carnival.
"To date, none of my correspondences were answered and obviously no working plan is in place," Gittens said. "It's falling on deaf ears."
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.