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Man Who Led Feds On Wild Boat Chase Around St. Croix Gets 6 Months Home Detention

CHRISTIANSTED — A man who led federal authorities on a high-speed boat chase around St. Croix after a shooting at Buck Island has been given a sentence of six months home detention.

Aneudis Acevedo, 33, appeared in U.S. District Court in Golden Rock and was handed that sentence and other conditions on a charge of resisting or impeding an officer of the United States, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

In all, Judge Wilma A. Lewis sentenced Acevedo to three years of probation, six months of home detention (with location monitoring), a fine of $10,000, and a $25 special assessment.

According to court documents, in the late afternoon of January 10, 2021, shots were fired on the Buck Island Reef National Monument after a fight occurred on the beach. Immediately after the shots were fired, Acevedo fled the scene in his boat at a high rate of speed while carrying several passengers. He fled from a National Park Service boat and officer, disobeying multiple orders directing him to stop.

At one point during the pursuit, the boats physically came into contact, but Acevedo continued to flee. Acevedo forced the National Park Service boat to abandon the pursuit after he travelled into shallow channels by a reef. The United States Coast Guard assisted and approximately two hours later took the defendant into custody on the south side of the island of St. Croix. However, at the time of apprehension, six boat passengers were no longer on the boat.

The National Park Service (NPS) the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Huston prosecuted the case.

This case is part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative. Project Safe
Neighborhoods is a nationwide initiative that brings together federal, state, local and tribal law
enforcement officials, prosecutors, and community leaders to identify the most pressing violent
crime problems in a community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.

For more information on the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, please see:
https://www.justice.gov/psn.

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National Park Service Extends Public Comment Period On Caneel Bay Redevelopment Options

CRUZ BAY —The National Park Service (NPS) announced the extension of the public comment period on an initial set of concepts that could guide the redevelopment of Caneel Bay at Virgin Islands National Park in St. John.

The public comment period, which began on Januart 18, will now be extended for 15 additional days through March 4.

“We are very pleased to be able to offer the public additional time to share their thoughts on the future of Caneel Bay,” said Virgin Islands National Park Superintendent Nigel Fields. “Working together is crucial to creating the best possible future for Caneel Bay. We look forward to continuing to receive the public’s feedback through March 4.”

The NPS began planning for the Caneel Bay redevelopment last fall. The goals of the redevelopment plan are to ensure the preservation and protection of natural, cultural and marine resources, provide for economic development opportunities through commercial services, maximize operational efficiencies and ensure compliance with law, regulation and policy. In line with these objectives, four preliminary redevelopment options are proposed for the public to comment on.

National Park Service Extends Public Comment Period On Caneel Bay Redevelopment Options
Caneel Bay after Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

To submit comments and find additional project information, including a civic engagement newsletter and a recorded presentation on the redevelopment options, please visit the Caneel Bay Redevelopment project page at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/CaneelBayRedevelopment.

Written comments may also be hand-delivered or mailed to the park headquarters at: Caneel Bay Redevelopment and Management Plan c/o Superintendent Nigel Fields 1300 Cruz Bay Creek St. John, VI 00830 www.nps.gov

About Caneel Bay: Caneel Bay currently operates under a retained use estate (RUE), a unique arrangement crafted by Laurance S. Rockefeller in 1983, setting aside the 150-acre resort for independent operation and management within Virgin Islands National Park without NPS oversight. The NPS expects to assume full responsibility for the property when the RUE expires on September 30, 2023.

The resort was severely damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and remains mostly closed. In addition to long being an economic driver on the island, Caneel Bay is also an important cultural and historical site and the location of the 1733 Akwamu Slave Rebellion, one of the first sustained revolts of enslaved people in the Americas.

Current information about the NPS redevelopment of Caneel Bay is available at go.nps.gov/CaneelBay. About the National Park Service.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 423 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities.

Learn more at www.nps.gov, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

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Coral World Ocean and Reef Initiative Works With NPS To Support Coral Restoration

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Coral World Ocean and Reef initiative, Inc. (CWORI) was established in 2019 as an independent organization to advance and expand the conservation work being carried out by Coral World Ocean Park.

“As a non-profit, CWORI would be able to access funding and seek donations unavailable to Coral World Ocean Park for coral restoration and wildlife rehabilitation among other much-needed efforts to conserve our marine habitats,” Coral World Ocean Park president Trudie Prior said. “We saw a great need to broaden Coral World’s existing work in the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Last year, the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of Interior (NPS) approached CWORI to provide technical assistance in support of coral restoration activities in the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument and Virgin Islands National Park. NPS and CWORI have since entered into a two-year cooperative agreement. According to NPS, “The project will benefit all stakeholders by providing resources for the ecological restoration of coral reefs within the Virgin Islands National Park and the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument. The information produced by this project will be shared to increase public awareness, knowledge and understanding of the Nation’s resources.”

Logan Williams, formerly Education and Research Coordinator for Coral World Ocean Park, has become CWORI’s first Conservation Manager. As CWORI’s Conservation Manager, Williams manages all coral rescue, rehabilitation, and restoration efforts. Williams, who was born and raised on St. Thomas, USVI recalls spending much of her childhood snorkeling on reefs surrounding St. Thomas and St. John with her father. She obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree with a Major in Marine Sciences, at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg Fl. Williams states, “During my undergraduate studies, I spent much of my summer and winter breaks assisting with coral reef related projects at the University of the Virgin Islands. I was drawn to the Master of Science in Marine and Environmental Science program at UVI and started my graduate work there directly underneath Dr. Marilyn E. Brandt. I began my work at Coral World Ocean Park after receiving my Master’s degree.”

Williams went on to say, “Coral reefs and their associated species provide shoreline protection from storm events, recreational opportunities for park visitors, and an economic benefit to adjacent communities. Hurricanes, most recently two back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, which made landfall in the U.S. Virgin Islands on September 6 and September 19, 2017, respectively, caused significant damage to coral reefs in national parks in the Caribbean and Florida. These reefs were already stressed as a result of coral disease, rising sea temperatures, coral bleaching, and recreational pressures.” Williams has worked with other scientists to help manage, mitigate and understand the effects of the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease on reefs in the USVI and has spent countless hours performing interventions on diseased colonies and tracking treatment successes.

The NPS project involves coral collection and transport of coral fragments of target species from field sites to in-water and/or land-based nurseries for asexual propagation. The land-based nurseries will be constructed on Coral World Ocean Park property. Matthew Tartaglio, Assistant General Curator of Coral World Ocean Park, who has years of experience building, operating, and maintaining life support systems at Coral World Ocean Park, will be responsible for the construction of the NPS coral tanks. Tartaglio said, “to propagate the corals and prepare them for outplanting, we have to ensure adequate seawater filtration and sterilization capabilities, flow rate and light level control.”

Williams said, “In addition to outplanting corals around St. John to fulfill the NPS USVI restoration plan, we will be monitoring in-water nurseries and fragments for coral growth and health, developing and conducting public outreach and educational programs, and creating a project exhibit at Coral World Ocean Park for public display.”

CWORI President and Executive Director Lee Kellar noted, “The work contemplated by the NPS-CWORI cooperative agreement will require at least 6 coral restoration technicians and 3 senior aquarists/supervisors. We are currently hiring and welcome applications. The positions are listed on the VI Department of Labor website https://www.vidolviews.org. We encourage anyone who has the qualifications and interest to submit an application.”

About Coral World Ocean and Reef Initiative, Inc.

Coral World Ocean and Reef Initiative, Inc. (CWORI) was established in 2019 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. CWORI is dedicated to conserving marine habitats and wildlife through rescue, rehabilitation, restoration, research, and empowering others with public education. Our emphasis is on combatting coral disease and restoring coral reefs, the rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles and birds, and marine mammal research. For more information, visit the Coral World Ocean and Reef Initiative website at https://cwori.org/

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National Park Service Releases Lego Vignette Of Alexander Hamilton On His Birthday

CHRISTIANSTED — “History has its eyes on you,” the National Park Service (NPS) says in a Lego vignette.

Alexander Hamilton was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis on January 11, 1757, or maybe 1755.

He later moved to St Croix in the then Danish West Indies, where as a young orphan Hamilton working as a clerk just up the street from what is today Christiansted National Historic Site.

Following a devastating hurricane in 1772, a collection was taken to send Hamilton to school in New Jersey where the world would learn his name.

Lego A/S is a Danish toy production company based in Billund. It manufactures Lego-brand toys, consisting mostly of interlocking plastic bricks.

The Lego Group has also built several amusement parks around the world, each known as Legoland, and operates numerous retail stores.

#FindYourPark#Hamilton

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St. Croix Man Faces 1 Year In Prison For Fleeing Rangers After Buck Island Brawl

CHRISTIANSTED — A St. Croix man who fled in a speed boat after shots were fired during a Buck Island brawl admitted to resisting arrest charges in federal court on Monday.

Aneudis Acevedo, 32, pleaded guilty to resisting or impeding an officer of the United States, U.S. Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert said.

Acevedo made his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge George W. Cannon in U.S. District Court in Golden Rock, Shappert said.

According to court documents, in the late afternoon of January 10, 2021, shots were fired on the Buck Island Reef National Monument after a fight occurred on the beach.

Immediately after the shots were fired, Acevedo fled the scene in his boat at a high rate of speed while carrying several
passengers.

Acevedo fled from a National Park Service boat and officer, disobeying multiple orders directing him to stop. At one point during the pursuit, the boats physically came into contact, but Acevedo continued to flee.

Acevedo forced the National Park Service boat to abandon the pursuit after he went into shallow channels by a reef.

The United States Coast Guard assisted and approximately two hours later took the defendant into custody on the south side of the island of St. Croix.

However, at that point the boat passengers were no longer on the boat.

Acevedo is scheduled to be sentenced on February 16, 2022 and faces up to one year in prison.

A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The National Park Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Huston is prosecuting the case.

This case is part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative. Project Safe Neighborhoods is a nationwide initiative that brings together federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and community leaders to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in a community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them.

For more information on the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, please see:
https://www.justice.gov/psn

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Angelita Alvino To Oversee National Parks On St. Croix Starting Next Month

CHRISTIANSTED — National Park Service (NPS) acting Regional Director Pedro Ramos announced the selection of Angelita “Angie” Alvino as the new superintendent of the Christiansted National Historic Site.

In addition to the site in Christiansted town, she will also oversee the Buck Island Reef National Monument and Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve on St. Croix.

“With more than 20 years of experience with coastal parks, the majority of which were gained here in the South Atlantic-Gulf region, I am pleased to welcome Angie back as the newest superintendent for our parks on St. Croix,” Ramos said“Angie is an innovative leader who offers holistic growth and development for park staff. Her ability to bolster support for park programming to provide mutual benefit for the park, its stakeholders and visitors will ensure the continued protection and interpretation of the parks’ cherished resources.” 

“I am honored to have been selected as the next superintendent for Christiansted National Historic Site, Buck Island Reef National Monument and Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve. I look forward to building relationships with staff, partners, and the local community to preserve and protect these unique sites. I am also excited for the opportunity to return to my Caribbean roots,” Alvino said. 

Alvino started her NPS career in 1999, near her hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico as a park guide at San Juan National Historic Site. In 2001, Alvino moved to Florida where she began as a park ranger with Everglades National Park and advanced to administrative officer with De Soto National Memorial and Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas national monuments. She continued her trek up the Atlantic coast as administrative officer with Fort Frederica National Monument in 2010 and has served as Assateague Island National Seashore’s chief of administration and business services since 2013. At Assateague Island, Alvino has managed a robust portfolio including the park’s housing, fee program, commercial/special use program, concessions, information technology, human resources and other administrative responsibilities. At various times during her tenure at Assateague Island, Alvino served as acting superintendent. Alvino also recently completed a temporary assignment as acting superintendent for Salem Maritime and Saugus Iron Works national historic sites.

During the span of her career, Alvino was twice recognized as an “Emerging Leader” by the NPS South-Atlantic Gulf Region. She is co-chair of the NPS Hispanic Organization on Relevancy, Advising, Leadership and Excellence and has taken an active role in leading programs to promote park safety and employee well-being. 

Alvino, a second-generation “parkie” who was inspired by her mother to join the NPS, studied business administration at Western New England College in Springfield, Massachusetts. She recently married last year on leap day, just shy of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Alvino prides herself on having a witty sense of humor, demonstrating kindness toward others and sharing precious time with her husband, four children, seven grandchildren and two Yorkshire terriers.

She will begin working with the NPS on October 4.

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Goat Lottery Planned To Protect Hawaii Historic Park

HONOLULU — To protect historic lands from invasive goats, Hawaii officials will distribute the live animals to the public via a lottery.

Hawaii officials will hold the lottery as a way to remove at least 700 goats from Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, which is an important cultural and historical site on the west side of the Big Island, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Those interested in the goats may apply for permits, which will be issued through a random lottery on July 28. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources will distribute 20 to 50 goats per permit.

Applicants must indicate how many goats they want and can’t choose individual animals.

Lottery winners must have a 16-foot (4.87-meter) enclosed horse trailer or equivalent to pick up the goats so that they don’t escape. A permit can be refused if a trailer isn’t secured.

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Chicago Resident Dies After Possible Drowning At Hawksnest Beach: VIPD

CRUZ BAY — Authorities are investigating the possible drowning of a man Tuesday at Hawksnest Beach in Virgin Islands National Park on St. John.

Good Samaritans were performing CPR when officers arrived. The man, identified as Brian Kosmal, 77, of Chicago, died at the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center.

The 911 Emergency Call Center dispatched officers to Hawksnest Beach to a report of a possible drowning at 3:25 p.m. Tuesday, the Virgin Islands Police Department said.

Chicago Resident Dies After Possible Drowning At Hawksnest Beach: VIPD

“Officers traveled to the area and found persons performing CPR on a Caucasian male who was said to had been snorkeling,” VIPD spokesman Toby Derima said. “The male was transported to the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center via ambulance for further treatment, however he eventually expired at the clinic.”

The investigation into this incident is ongoing.

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One Massachusetts Traveler Returns To Find A Changed, But Resilient St. John

CRUZ BAY — It had taken me three days of snorkeling, but I finally hit the jackpot — an endangered hawksbill turtle, serenely munching tropical sea grass in the shallows of Francis Bay.

Bright sunlight filtered through the turquoise water, and a sea fan swayed in the current. Blue tang and angelfish glided by a cushion starfish. The huge turtle chomped away, occasionally rising to the surface to breathe, unperturbed by my presence.

By then, my wife and I were feeling pretty gruntled, too. Taking a holiday in St. John in April meant our first airports, our first flights, our first rental car, our first real trip after a strange and perilous year. Sure, we were vaccinated and busting to get out. But still.

It helped that the U.S. Virgin Islands required a coronavirus test no more than five days before arriving. (The rules eased in June: Now no test is required if you’re fully vaccinated.) We had to get approval via a USVI Web portal, show the test results at the United check-in counter at Dulles International Airport, again at the gate, and then again after landing in St. Thomas.

If anything, the journey was easier than usual. Crowds were sparse at Dulles, the four-hour flight was half-empty, and everyone we saw wore a mask. We had to wait two hours for the four-wheel-drive I’d reserved from Avis. But long delays for rental cars are normal in St. Thomas.

I’ve visited the U.S. and British Virgin Islands eight times over the years. I’ve island-hopped on sailboats up and down the Sir Francis Drake Channel, clambered over boulders on Virgin Gorda, drunk painkillers at Foxy’s on Jost van Dyke, windsurfed off St. Croix, taken my family camping above Maho Bay, donned scuba tanks and dived to a sunken aircraft off Great Dog Island, and more.

But all that was before not just the pandemic, but two monster hurricanes, Irma and Maria, that devastated St. John and nearby islands in September 2017. I was worried about what I would find on this trip.

St. John is one of my favorite places anywhere. It’s 19 square miles of impossibly steep hills covered by dense jungle that abruptly drops to reef-lined beaches. Best of all, more than two-thirds of the island is protected as Virgin Islands National Park, home to pristine beaches, rugged hiking trails and scores of archaeological sites.

That has prevented the overdevelopment that has spoiled parts of the other U.S. Virgin Islands. In the worst example, the Limetree Bay oil refinery on St. Croix has spewed noxious odors and regularly caught fire. It temporarily halted operations in May after raining oil on houses more than two miles away — for the second time this year — and announced on Monday that it would remain shut indefinitely.

It’s hard to imagine heavy industry on St. John. The roads are like a roller coaster, a mix of giddy and terrifying. If there is 100 yards of straight, flat surface, I’ve never found it. So there is no airport. The only way there is by boat.

Since we were driving we headed for the Red Hook ferry. It’s like the Higgins landing craft that hit the beaches during World War II. You somehow back your car on inches from the next one, chug for 30 minutes in salty spray, and then the ramp comes crashing down and you’re there.

My first reaction was relief. After Irma scoured St. John with 185 mph winds, the National Park Service described the devastation as “impossible to comprehend.”

“Every leaf was stripped from the island. All the telephone poles were down. Most of the island trees had been toppled and many were tangled with the poles and wires,” it reported.

Even Navy ships and National Guard troops were evacuated when Maria roared in two weeks later. The winds weren’t as fierce but the flooding was worse.

Not quite four years on, St. John appears lush and green again. All the trails and beaches reopened on April 20, the day after we arrived. The huge cruise ships that ply nearby waters were still at anchor due to the pandemic, so the once-jammed alleys in tiny Cruz Bay, where the ferry lands, were relatively quiet.

Friends had kindly invited us back to their elegant cliff-top compound overlooking Great Cruz Bay. Irma had destroyed the main cottage but they rebuilt with steel beams and reinforced concrete, and the endless views of the Caribbean, especially with a cocktail at sunset from their infinity pool, were as stunning as ever.

Four other houses on their hill were not so fortunate; only bare lots remain. Other parts of St. John remain far worse off.

The fabled Caneel Bay Resort, a magnet destination since the 1950s for those who could afford it, is still in ruins and hundreds of people have lost their jobs. But that’s partly because the current operator is in a feud with the Park Service, which owns the land.

Elsewhere, some shops and restaurants remain shuttered from the pandemic, and at least a few, including the popular Caribbean Oasis Bar in Coral Bay, have closed for good. The Westin, the largest hotel, has reopened but shifted much of its operation to time sharing.

One positive result of the storms: Work crews are burying power lines across the island. The goal is not only to remove unsightly poles and wires, but to ensure power doesn’t go out again for weeks when the next hurricane hits.

As part of the recovery, several historic buildings in Cruz Bay and elsewhere have been refurbished, and archaeological sites and hiking trails in the national park, including the serpentine Reef Bay Trail, have been restored or upgraded.

There’s also a welcome focus on overlooked chapters in the island’s long history. On April 24, the U.S. Interior Department designated the ruins at Leinster Bay one of the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom historic sites, finally shining a light on the brutal enslavement that flourished here for centuries.

Historians say at least 100 enslaved Africans escaped the sugar plantations on St. John, then in Danish control, by paddling from Leinster Bay across the strait to Tortola, which was British, after Britain abolished slavery in 1834.

A century earlier, in 1733, 150 enslaved Africans seized the Danish fort at Coral Bay and effectively took control of St. John — then called Sankt Jan — for six months, one of the earliest and longest revolts in the Caribbean.

French and Swiss troops from Martinique, more than 300 miles away, ultimately put down the long-forgotten rebellion decades before better-known insurrections flared on Jamaica, Haiti, Grenada and Barbados.

Our host recently bought a 38-foot power boat, and one afternoon we cruised up the north shore to Leinster Bay. We moored just off tiny Waterlemon Cay and I happily jumped in. The water was crystal clear: Black sea urchins carpeted the rocks, reef squid darted in the coral, and a pelican divebombed for lunch nearby.

From the boat, I couldn’t see the plantation ruins through the thick vegetation. But on a previous trip, I had hiked to the ragged stone remains of a sugar mill, overseer’s residence and a guardhouse, much of it overgrown by thorny bushes. Sadly, not a single sign explained their significance. I hope that will change under the new designation.

Not surprisingly, the tourist industry and Hollywood prefer to highlight the pirates of the Caribbean. Back in the 1600s and 1700s, Captain Kidd, Blackbeard and other buccaneers plundered Spanish galleons from these islands and cays. I’ve sailed to both Norman Island, the alleged setting for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” and his “Dead Chest Island” (of “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum” fame), lodestars of my childhood.

Cruising back to Great Cruz Bay late one afternoon we detoured west to inspect Little Saint James island, the former home of a modern villain, financier and convicted child sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Long before Epstein was arrested and died by suicide in New York in 2019, it was widely whispered here (with dozens of staff, what did he expect?) that his helicopter brought underage girls along with celebrities. Locals even called it “Pedophile Island.”

From just offshore, we could see a large cream-colored structure with a turquoise roof that apparently was the main house. A steep hill rose behind it and palm trees waved at the top beside a small, squat, blue-striped building that news reports variously described as Epstein’s library, music room or “lair.” The roof is missing and the whole island appeared forlorn and desolate.

We made a more pleasant discovery when a friend directed us to Oppenheimer Beach, a deserted white sand crescent that doesn’t appear on most tourist maps and is a perfect hideaway.

It must have seemed that way to the former owner, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the famed physicist who helped produce the first atomic bomb and who later lost his security clearance in a political witch hunt. The ruins of his house hug one end of the beach.

After all my visits, St. John still had surprises to offer.

—Bob Drogin is a writer based in West Tisbury, Massachusetts

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Police Command The High Seas As Part Of COVID-19 Training Exercise On St. Croix

CHRISTIANSTED — Virgin Islands Police Department officers hit the water near Green Cay to hone some of their marine tactical abilities.

A Joint Marine Training Unit Session was conducted recently with the VIPD, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources Marine Division and the U.S. Coast Guard all participating on St. Croix.

Assistant Police Commissioner Mario Brooks learned first hand from VIPD Commander Lt. Herman Lynch some of the skills required of law enforcement officers on the high seas.

Police Command The High Seas As Part Of COVID-19 Training Exercise On St. Croix

The VIPD Marine Training partnership also included National Park Service law enforcement officers, police said.

The National Park Service-VIPD Joint patrols are a “vital part” of Governor Albert Bryan’s mandate on flattening the COVID-19 curve,” according to the VIPD.

“VIPD appreciates the support of our federal partners,” police said on Twitter.