June 12, 2001 – By all reports the recent visit by the Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt to St. Thomas was a great success.
There were two armed robberies on Sunday, but no report of injuries.
Attorney General Iver Stridiron said Monday he was very pleased with the outcome of the Navy's visit, although he hadn't heard about the robberies.
"I have to commend the Police Department," which had personnel working around the clock to protect the 5,000-plus sailors who took shore leave over the weekend, he said.
He said personnel from all law-enforcement agencies, including his department, were deployed to help with security.
Jim Lovell, president of the Navy League on St. Thomas, said the Navy's top brass was pleased, too. Extra shore patrols were on duty around the clock, along with local law enforcement officers, he said.
Security has increased dramatically for U.S. Navy ships worldwide since the terrorist bombing of the USS Cole last October, in which 17 American soldiers died.
Lovell said at least nine ships had anchored off St. Thomas since the Cole incident, but security for this visit was tighter than before, perhaps because of the proximity to Vieques, where inhabitants continue to protest Navy bombing exercises.
The Navy League used to be able to invite up to 300 guests aboard visiting ships, and public tours were run continually while the vessels were in port. This time, Lovell said, "They cut us down to 150" guests.
He also said "armed sentinels" were in evidence on board. On the deck of the Roosevelt, "every 50 yards there was an armed guard." (Also on the deck, he noted, is the F-14 that Tom Cruise's character flew in the movie "Top Gun.")
Others in the community who routinely work with Navy ships when they're in port said the whole visit had been kept quiet.
All vessels servicing the ship were searched thoroughly before being allowed to go near it, and the names of those aboard the vessels had to be provided to the Navy in advance, along with names of residents who could vouch for the vendors and their personnel.
The Navy set up two perimeters around the ship -– the first a warning zone if vessels got too close, and the second which would draw an armed patrol and the boarding of any vessel that crossed the first perimeter.
In contrast, Lovell said, local vessels used to be able to "cruise" all around the ships.
He said one top Navy official told him, "We were hoping nothing would happen" — and if something had gone awry, the Navy would have pulled out, not to return.
But, Lovell said, "They were thrilled" and even made "glowing comments" about Police Chief José Garcia.


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