March 18, 2002 – Housing Authority Police are teaming up with other government agencies to clean up a neglected corner near the Paul M. Pearson Garden Housing Community.
Over the last few years, the undeveloped space next to the Vitraco Mall shopping center has become home to the homeless, who are living in a concrete drainage culvert that was once part of the Estate Thomas roadway project, Capt. Gaston Tuckett of the housing police said.
"They're using it as their little springboard to put up a tarp as their makeshift home," he said in a telephone interview Monday.
The property once belonged to Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park, which reportedly sold it in 1999. Over the years it has been a known haven for drug dealers and illegal gambling, often reported as the scene of shootings, purse snatchings and robberies. "We have had several incidents attributed to congregation of vagrants in the area," Tuckett said.
Because of the site's proximity to Pearson Gardens, housing police patrolling the area have kept an eye on the people living under the tarp. Last Thursday, with help from agents of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, they began what Tuckett called a clean-up initiative. About 25 people were detained while agents searched for drugs. They came up with small amounts of marijuana and crack cocaine.
No one was arrested, but the housing police began dismantling the makeshift dwelling, hauling mattresses sofas and auto parts away, destined for the Bovoni landfill. Authorities also removed four abandoned cars, which they said were often used to stash illegal drugs.
Because used car batteries were found on the site, Environmental Protection Agency and Planning and Natural Resources Department personnel were called in to inspect for and remove hazardous waste materials.
Tuckett said the housing police will conduct further operations in and around the vacant lot to rid the area of undesirables. Ultimately, he said, he would like to see the culvert removed, but that would take cooperation and commitment from the property owner.
Meanwhile, he said, the vagrants are free to return because the owner of record has not posted trespassing notices or tried to restrict their movement.

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