2012: Year of the gun in the V.I.
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The level of violence we've lived through this past year has been breathtaking in its scope. Homes have been invaded, restaurants and patrons robbed, automatic weapons fired, people executed in night clubs, police have been shot and one tragically killed, and a multitude of drive-by shootings.
On and on the rampage went, unabated all year - with our final tally almost 60 homicides in a population of just over 100,000, exceeded only by the year 2010 as our most deadly yet.
Picture these scenes from 2012:
People cowering on the floor of several St. Croix restaurants as men with faces masked and automatic weapons in the ready position demanded money - now! - or they would kill everyone in the place.
People in their homes late at night with guns placed to their heads by young men demanding money.
St. Croix Police Chief Chris Howell with his arm shattered by the gunfire of an automatic weapon, as he bravely responded to a robbery.
And the saddest, most tragic unseen pictures of all: Crucian and St. Thomian parents bent over their children's graves and caskets with their faces contorted in Biblical grief as they tried to understand the horror that ripped their lives apart.
This was 2012, not very different from 2011 or 2010.
The 21st century has not been kind to the Virgin Islands. We are in free-fall right now. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about economics, finances, society, energy, crime or the environment - we are beleaguered and broken.
The egomaniacal politicians endlessly squabble and their corruption is epidemic, with $6.9 million unaccounted for and only one senator presently awaiting trial for the theft of a paltry fraction of that.
Where are the rest of them?
The energy company, WAPA, is managed so badly and charges rates so onerous that the Virgin Islands' small business community is being decimated along with the financial lives of hundreds of V.I. families.
Environmentally, you cannot recycle a single can, bottle or piece of paper on St. Croix. It all goes to the dump, which for decades has been under a federal order to close or the feds may close the airport. Still, no action.
Our prison? The V.I. is under a federal order to fix it, but after 25 years: no action.
Finances? Government money is squandered, abused, unused and mismanaged.
On and on it goes, but it's the insane level of violence that first must be addressed if we are to even think about fixing everything else.
We must first feel safe. To do that, we must eradicate our psychotic gun problem, and to do that we need help.
Begin with our Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen. She is our conduit to the feds and we need Federal help. Prod her with emails and phone calls, relentlessly, to have the shooters classified as domestic terrorists with all the Federal attention that deserves.
Our governor should do the same. Use any leverage he has with the feds to get some action on this horrible problem. Guns are flooding the V.I. and need to be stopped and our police cannot handle or solve this problem.
A few evil, poisonous people are bringing in large quantities of military assault weapons and need to be stopped now. Monitor computer and cell phone conversations among persons of interest; they need to be arrested en masse as soon as the evidence is there. How long are we supposed to tolerate the murderous youth of the Virgin Islands?
I haven't presented a pretty picture of the Virgin Islands. I didn't intend to. I intended to present a truthful one. We are drowning in a sea of violence and it isn't going to go away on its own. Violence needs to be eradicated now. Otherwise the joy in life dies.
We need to get off of our collective duffs right now and act like citizens who care about the place we call home. I urge each person reading this to become directly involved.
Don't give up without a fight. The bad guys won't.
Defeat them. Imprison them. Inspire your neighbor with your bravery.
- Jake Sheehan, St. Croix