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CAMERAS SUGGESTED TO DETER DRUG DEALING

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June 8, 2001 – At St. John's monthly community meeting to discuss police issues Thursday, concerns about what some termed the continual and unabated drug trafficking in downtown Cruz Bay was a prime topic.
Also in the spotlight were announcements that a vendors plaza will be developed for those selling locally made goods, and that signs will soon go up reserving certain parking spaces on the Cruz Bay waterfront for community use.
Businessman James Penn characterized drug dealing in the town as a "24/7" operation – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He cited the areas in front of the Tourism Office and the Post Office as the busiest, with activity that he said continues unchecked despite the obvious sales of marijuana, cocaine and crack cocaine.
"Every morning I come into Cruz Bay, the area is littered with crack vials and marijuana packets from the previous night," Penn said.
Jewel Powell, a vacation villa manager, concurred with Penn's assessment, adding, "It's obvious what they are doing, and it's disgraceful."
Powell related an incident on a recent ferry trip from St. Thomas when one passenger asked another, a young man, to cease rolling a marijuana joint. In response, she said, the young man berated his critic and went so far as to threaten the individual.
Lt. Joseph Gumbs, acting commander of the Zone D Police Command on St. John, agreed that a greater police presence is needed in Cruz Bay. He asked the night commander, Cpl. Gloria Frett, to join the meeting. Frett attributed the drug problems to a lack of police personnel and to constant loitering in the area.
Penn said even loitering laws are not fully enforced. "Loitering should not be allowed" in front of Chase Bank, at Meda's Plaza or around the Cruz Bay bandstand, he said.
Commissioner Andrew Rutnik of Licensing and Consumer Affairs suggested installing surveillance cameras. "Cameras may act as a deterrent to loitering and/or drug pushing," he said. But, he added, the real problem is the demand for drugs.
Gumbs noted that Rutnik had been invited to the meeting to address concerns of St. John vendors which Gumbs said many people view as a police problem.
Rutnik said a Vendors Plaza will be established in the Tourism Office park – and that it will be available only to vendors of locally made products. "The V.I. Cultural Institute will monitor what products are considered local and eligible to be sold," he said.
There will no longer be vending in the park, Rutnik said, and by law for-profit operations cannot sell their wares in the territory’s public parks. Penn challenged this, pointing to Vendors Plaza on St. Thomas. Rutnik responded that the site alongside Emancipation Garden, formerly used for parking, "is not considered a park." The designated parks are Emanicipation Garden itself and Roosevelt Park on St. Thomas, Cruz Bay Park on St. John and Cramer’s Park on St. Croix. Ballparks are not considered in the category, he added.
On another issue, Rutnik said St. John Administrator Julien Harley has been in discussion with Ira Wade, Public Works deputy commissioner for St. John, about erecting signs designating six spaces adjacent to the St. John ferry dock for short-term community use.
Rutnik said Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd will introduce legislation on June 25 to re-establish public use of the dock-area space now leased by St. John Taxi Services. Space allotted for parking by VITRAN buses may be moved a hundred yards to the Battery gate, the commissioner said, so as to free up more space by the dock.
Rutnik also addressed complaints from residents about noise from nightclubs and restaurants. He said his department will establish new noise standards, and police will be equipped with meters to determine sound levels when they respond to complaints.
Gumbs said burglaries had decreased substantially in the month since the last police community meeting, due to more citizen involvement and stepped-up patrols, particularly in the areas of Great Cruz Bay and Chocolate Hole.

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