CHRISTIANSTED — One Health Department peace officer and two security guards confronted a coconut vendor in the parking lot of Kmart at the Sunny Isle Shopping Center late this morning.
A crowd of people gathered late this morning in the south end of the Kmart parking lot to hear the VIDOH officer voice his concerns about the hawker.
The Sunny Isle Shopping Center does not allow loitering or solicitations at its property and numerous requests by Sunny Isle’s management have gone unheeded by coconut vendors operating there without permission.
Sources close to the department’s investigation said that red barricade tape was erected last week to cordon off the area where the coconut vendors were seen selling coconuts today.
The red barricade tape was was established as a barrier by Sunny Isle to prevent the coconut vendor or his customers from parking or conducting unsolicited business in that area.
But that caution tape was torn down by someone recently and the vendors resumed selling coconuts and coconut water at the Sunny Isle Shopping Center this morning.
Sources said the vendor leaves garbage behind at the close of the day’s business at dusk, forcing Sunny Isle’s maintenance crew to clean up after the illegal vendors on a daily basis.
An observer said the coconut vendor was offering one fresh coconut per day to the Sunny Isle maintenance man to clean up the discarded coconuts left behind every day.
The maintenance person has now refused the bargain and Sunny Isle’s management team has stepped up efforts to remove the vendor with the help of private security firm Ranger American and the Department of Health enforcement division.
Two Ranger American security officers were spotted at or near the scene of the VIDOH enforcement action this morning by the Virgin Islands Free Press‘ photographer.
The source said the coconut vendor frequently procures coconuts from areas where he has not been granted permission to take them from and a V.I. Free Press reader confirmed this.
Most V.I. Freep readers sided with the coconut vendor on this issue.
“Coconut vending is part of the Virgin Islands’ charm,” Mike Kirschbaum said. “The government should look into supporting this heritage. Like Carnival, which I’m sure makes a mess, vendors are a valuable part of the local color. Public Works or such could be asked for a solution to the trash problem, it’s in their area of expertise.”
“Coconut been selling in that area since I can remember myself … Early 80s. All of a sudden it’s a problem?” Bin Hameen said. “How bout worrying about all them empty-ass stores in Sunny Isles.”
“They can sell all their coconuts at the vegetable market in La Reine,” Kharamel Jay said on St. Croix.
“Be happy they making money selling coconuts. They could be out there robbing folks instead.” Anthony M. Bailey said.
“Anthony M. Bailey they thief the coconuts then sell them. We caught them in our yard and told them we didn’t have a problem if they had asked. But Coming in people yard to take whatever without asking is totally disrespectful.”
Department of Health spokeswoman Jahnesta Ritter did not immediately return a request for additional information from the V.I. Free Press.