During a speech Tuesday at the Seatrade Cruise Global conference in Miami, Gov. Kenneth Mapp — as part of his ongoing efforts to push forward the territory’s tourism product — announced a new partnership between the Government of the Virgin Islands and the New York Police Department (NYPD) to help combat the rise in violent crime on the islands.
“We’re going to do the very same thing that other communities have done to make safety and security in the Virgin Islands a very high priority,” Mapp told an audience of cruise industry professionals.
Mapp’s remarks were given in the context of assuring cruise line officials of the safety of their passengers while visiting the territory. However, while he noted this new focus on security would be beneficial to the territory’s visitors, he said it would be more so “for us, the people that live and work in the Virgin Islands.”
With that, Mapp outlined the nature of the government’s partnership with the NYPD.
“And so, we are just about ready to bridge a marriage with folks who were responsible for the restructuring and re-positioning of the NYPD under mayor Giuliani that are going to be in the Virgin Islands working with our law enforcement team to do a complete, top-to-bottom assessment of the VIPD,” he said.
“We’re going to change our recruitment strategies, we’re going to exchange officers with departments on the mainland, we’re going to send our leadership team to schools on the mainland that are sponsored by other police departments to bring professional law enforcement and policing into the community,” the governor explained.
He admitted the government’s investment in law enforcement and other first responders had been neglected.
“We recognize that we have to make a very big investment in our first-responder community,” he said. “We have tremendously dedicated first responders, police officers, EMTs, fire fighters and the like, but we have not really invested in their training, and given them the resources and given them the tools to professionalize the job that they do.”
Mapp, who said his “first real job” was that of a police trainee in New York City where he worked for 3-1/2 years in the 83rd precinct in Brooklyn “at a time when it was rife with crime and violence,” said he knows that it is possible, through good policing, for communities with a crime problem to get a handle on it.
“We have seen policing take a trajectory that crime in many of our worse places in America have been brought under control,” he said. “That the way we teach, and the opportunities we give our young people, and the after-school programs that we support, and recognizing the families in distress and need help and support, that as we do these things, that we change the whole environment in which crime festers.”
In addition to the stateside partnerships for professional development and training of VIPD officers, Mapp said his administration will begin training the next generation of law enforcement professionals from as early as high school.
“We are going to be opening and launching, in our high schools, a law enforcement cadet corps to begin the process of growing our talent in law enforcement to provide the kinds of services and policing that the islands need,” the governor explained.
Mapp reiterated his commitment to cruise industry professionals that the territory is working hard to address its crime issues “in a very pragmatic way.”
“We recognize some of our shortcomings, but we want you, particularly in the cruise lines, to know that we’re addressing them and we’re addressing them in a very pragmatic way and making them important and setting them forward as a high priority,” he said. “We look forward for your continued partnership and understanding.”
Since January, the territory has seen more than 12 shooting deaths, with many victims being gunned down on St. Thomas in gang-related shootings.
Feature Image: (L to R) NYPD and VIPD