March 5, 2003 – Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards announced to cruise line officials at the annual Seatrade convention in Florida this week that security cameras have been installed in both Christiansted and Frederiksted to help prevent crime — and, it is hoped, get ships to resume calling at St. Croix.
But the tapes intended to record and prevent criminal activity are not yet rolling, according to police officials. The project is more than four months behind its scheduled completion date of Oct. 25.
"We're working feverishly to get all the cameras up and running," Lt. Glenn Awong, project coordinator and special assistant to Police Commissioner Franz Christian, said. Installation of the cameras has been completed in both towns, Awong said, and wire splicing on the remaining four of 18 cameras in Frederiksted was to have been completed Wednesday.
"Basically the cameras are in fact up and running," and the contractor is "doing a testing phase in Frederiksted," Awong said. He said the Water and Power Authority powered the system and a few final bugs are being worked out there.
"As of yesterday we had 14 of 18 cameras in Frederiksted fully operational," Awong said.
In Christiansted, the cameras are physically up and connected to WAPA, with three remaining to be hooked up to the police monitoring station. "I'm pleased to say we're really on track at this point in time, compared to where we were two weeks ago," Awong said. "We're near the completion of the project."
The lieutenant governor, in response to complaints from a St. Croix business organization that funded the writing of a successful grant application for $369,000 to pay for the cameras, directed the fast tracking of the cameras' installation on St. Croix. (See "Priority setup of St. Croix cameras ordered".)
ADT Security Systems, the company hired to do the job, had initially begun putting cameras up on St. John and St. Thomas. Awong said the company will soon resume work on St. Thomas to finish the job there.
How the recorded information will be used is not completely clear. Deputy Police Chief Melbourne Adams said details about how long information will be stored and how officers viewing suspicious activity will be deployed have not yet been worked out.
"Once the system is completed, we'll get together and do some training and make policies based on the capabilities of this system," Adams said.
According to Richards, cruise line executives are excited about the new system, and he is encouraged by talks held at the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention, being held through Thursday in Miami Beach. Since the implementation late last spring of new police initiatives to keep cruise-ship passengers safe while in port, there have been no reports of crimes against such visitors, he said.
Police "developed a strategic plan" to make sure that passengers "don't end up in areas considered 'hot spots,'" he said.
However, since last spring there has been only a fraction of the ship arrivals in seasons past. And there have been instances of crime against overnight visitors and food and beverage businesses.
A Celebrity Cruises vessel, the 1,950-passenger Constellation, is the only ship that has called regularly on St. Croix since last April. Its 17th and final scheduled visit is this Sunday.
Richards said meetings at the Seatrade gathering went well, and discussions will continue next week when some cruise ship executives visit St. Croix. He said he remains optimistic that ships will resume calling on the island.
"At least they're open to discussion," Richards said of the cruise lines. "The fact that we're talking, in my opinion, is a plus. We're trying to bring them back."
Cruise lines firm up their schedules at least a year in advance — which means that St. Croix likely will not see ships returning to the port of Frederiksted for at least another year, Richards noted.
"These are very sensitive negotiations," he said. "We're trying to prove we are making an effort to address their concerns."
Last April Carnival Cruise Lines took St. Croix off its itinerary for two ships, the Triumph and the Victory, that had been scheduled for 52 calls this season. In May, Norwegian Cruise Line canceled eight scheduled calls. And in June, Holland America called off plans for the Zuiderdam to make 43 calls through next December. Celebrity's Constellation had initially been scheduled for 21 calls but announced in December that it was canceling the final four, in March and April.
Officials of the cruise lines have said they will not put St. Croix back on their itineraries unless and until the island addresses two key issues: crime against passengers and crew, and what they describe as St. Croix's low marketability — that is, things of interest for visitors to do while on island.

Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here