Opposition Leader, Hon. Julian Fraser
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Opposition Leader, Hon. Julian Fraser has called for officers of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) to be regularly armed with more firearms, and for government to pump more money into the force. Hon. Fraser's comments came in light of the recent rise in gun crimes.
"I have always been an advocate for officers being equipped with firearms and that is long before matters had gotten this bad. This philosophy has been partially and halfheartedly employed in certain instances, where at special events a handful of officers will show up wearing a firearm. Proof positive that the need exists," he said in a statement.
He said that the men and women charged with the responsibility to keep residents and visitors safe will never be able to control crime until they are in a position to patrol the streets and neighborhoods adequately.
"And the three most important things they are going to need are 1) personnel, 2) patrol cars and 3) firearms. To get these things, the police must have two things: 1) money and 2) a change in management's mentality towards firearms."
He said that the police department should not be in competition for funds in order to provide the necessary resources to keep the peace; however, he said persons should not expect that to change as long as the force remains under the Governor.
"Our anachronistic style of democracy which we practice here in the Virgin Islands, with four branches of government separate and unequal, will continue to be dysfunctional in this 21st century with our national security being the victim of circumstance. It is therefore no mystery that crime in the Virgin Islands is spiraling in the wrong direction," he said.
Hon. Fraser added, "The police department being woefully underfunded has resulted in inadequate manpower; insufficient patrol vehicles; no patrol aircraft; a marine response responsibility that is by all accounts outsourced; and police officers that are ill-equipped for the 21st century, and thus, led to a force unable to cope with the crimes of the day."
He noted that during the time of the last Constitutional Review in 2007, a National Security Council was established as a means of bringing input from the elected government into the way the Territory is policed, "but as far as I am concerned, nothing has changed, because the Governor is still in charge of the force."
The Opposition Leader argued that as long as the police is under the Governor, the elected government will never feel the necessary pressures to properly fund the police because the issue of crime is always the responsibility of those in charge.
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
"There is no reason the Governor can't give responsibility for the police to the Premier. It happens in Bermuda and it has been working for decades. The mechanism for this exists, constitutionally. We need to make our elected government responsible for keeping us safe, and if they don’t, hold them accountable."
Hon. Fraser pointed out that in their dealings with the issue of crime, particularly gun crimes, the BVI must always be found thinking on its feet, and be less concerned about being popular.
"I was asked my opinion on arming business owners as a deterrent to robberies and I don't see the connection unless the store owners decide to post a sign on the outside of their business saying that they are armed. But this might just have the opposite effect by deterring the customers they rely upon to survive," he noted.
Hon. Fraser said, "But law enforcement has a duty beyond policing, which includes Customs and Immigration. It has to do with border protection, because last time I checked, the BVI don't produce anything, including guns. So, who's fault is it that the guns are here! When we figure that out, half our problems with gun crimes are solved. It's not rocket science."