KINGSHILL — When gunfire rang out at four separate locations on St. Croix on April 19 — the Virgin Islands Police Department responded immediately to every potential crime scene.
One week ago, the VIPD, acting more like firemen responding to an alarm, sprung into action right away and were “first responders” when seven people were shot and three killed in the space of about an hour on Monday, Police Commissioner Trevor A. Velinor said.
Using ShotSpotter technology across the island, police are able to pinpoint the number of gunshots using small audio sensors that have been placed around St. Croix to triangulate the sound when it happens.
“In addition to that, last evening (April 19), at a little bit after 9 p.m., we also had another incident in the area of La Reine. In that incident, fortunately, we also had law enforcement who were involved in a proactive investigation, Commissioner Velinor said one day after the event. “That investigation is under continued investigation, meaning that, we are looking at those individuals who were involved in committing a very violent act and law enforcement was present on the scene. That investigation involves both the Virgin Islands law enforcement police officers along with members of the federal agencies to include DEA and HSI.
Commissioner Velinor told reporters following the VIPD press conference remotely that the VIPD has a camera system about to go live in the territory in July to compliment the Shotspotter technology and hopefully bring more violent offenders to justice to help overcome Virgin Islanders natural reluctance to testify in criminal matters.
“These two incidents, within an hour apart of each other, again demonstrates that there seems to be a narrative where individuals are possessing firearms, using firearms and impacting our community,” he said. “I will tell you, that we will solve these two cases. The Virgin Islands Police Department is working tirelessly to ensure that we enhance the quality of life through safety in our community. We’ve teamed up with our federal partners and other local officers and we’re investigating this matter and I assure you that we will bring both of these matters into a very good conclusion, from the perspective of solving them. The tragedy is that our members of our community again (were) impacted by bloodshed. We have to do something about it. We will continue to do something about it.
Law enforcement experts say ShotSpotter gives police a more precise location of shooting incidents — sometimes while they are still in progress — which makes for a quicker and more effective law enforcement response.
“The real-time alerts notify the police precisely when and where incidents of gunfire occur, resulting in a faster, more accurate response to the scene,” Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said. “it also increases the possibility of us recovering evidence, interviewing witnesses and most importantly, attending on any gunshot victims.”
For obvious reasons, police departments nationwide do not release information about the exact quantity or location of the ShotSpotter devices. ShotSpotter technology is usually implemented with an initial federal grant which lasts for three yeas. After that period, the department can look for another grant to expand the project in other parts of the territory.
POLICE AS ‘FIRST RESPONDERS’ AT A VIOLENT CRIME SCENE
“The Virgin Islands Police Department along with our law enforcement partners — we’re working to try to solve as many crimes as possible,” Commissioner Velinor said. “I talk about those qualifications that allow for solving crime. and you’ve heard me talk about: Whether it be technology; Whether it be: Science; Whether it be having an officer present on scene and then you’ve also heard me talk about also individuals who come forward as witnesses and so forth. Those are all part of the equation to effectively solve crime. And so we will continue to do those things.
“We will continue to appeal to community members, but we also know that the Virgin Islands Police Department and law enforcement within the territory help towards literally as ‘first responders’ to solve those crimes. That’s why we’ve pushed forward a couple things: you will see some more collaboration. As you know, Governor Albert Bryan signed an executive order not long ago which now allows for peace officers from the various agencies to work at least 16 hours per month with the Virgin Islands Police Department. We’ll be rolling that out where we’ll all going to be: ‘one team, one fight’ which is our public safety. And so we’re serious about fighting crime and solving crime.”
But the police commissioner emphasized that law enforcement alone can’t stem the tide of violent crime in the territory — the people of the Virgin Islands themselves must get involved if they want to live in a more crime-free environment.
“The police will do its part in impacting violent crime — homicides in particular — but we need everyone to play a role sitting at the table and coming up with part of the solution,” Commissioner Velinor said. “This is not simply a policing issue, this is a community issue. The violent crime is not simply owned by the police department — it is owned by all of us.”