Aug. 9, 2004 – The Police Department is on a crusade to polish up its image by teaching its officers how to treat residents and visitors, Police Commissioner Elton Lewis said at a meeting Monday night on St. John.
Dozens of residents overflowed the Legislature Building in Cruz Bay to complain about problems with the police and to make suggestions on how to improve the situation.
Lewis said his officers will undergo "customer-centric training" so they will be more customer friendly. And, he said, he hopes that improved relations with the community will convince people to come forward with tips to help police solve crimes.
"It's 20 percent technology, but we need the human touch," Lewis said.
However, Lewis said it will take more money than the Police Department has to solve some of the problems. For example, Marty Alperen suggested that police walk a beat instead of patrolling in cars, but Lewis said he doesn't have enough officers.
"Our officers spend most of their days and hours responding to calls," he said.
Lewis said that in the 1970s the Police Department had 44 people in the detective bureau, but today there are only 14. However, Harry Daniel, who retired some years ago after 25 years with the Police Department, pointed out that officers who are not detectives also can take fingerprints.
Lewis said a program will be implemented in about six months that will allow the police dispatcher to pinpoint the current location of each police car on a map.
Coral Bay resident Phyllis Benton suggested that while the Police Department is waiting for funds to be allocated for the construction of a Coral Bay Police Station, it assign an officer to Coral Bay.
"We all understand response time is an issue," she said, referring to the half hour or so it takes police to get from Cruz Bay to Coral Bay and beyond.
Lewis said he is looking a program that allows officers to take police cars home at night as a way to deter crime in their neighborhoods.
Sherry Boynes-Jackson, who owns the Boyson Inc. barge company, asked Lewis whose responsibility it is to inspect vehicles on the barges for homeland security purposes. She said that at "threat level one," 5 percent of the vehicles are supposed to be inspected, with the figure rising to 25 percent and then to 100 percent with every increase in threat level. It does not appear that any vehicles are currently being inspected, she said.
Lewis said he would have to check, but it would probably be the Port Authority's responsibility.
He also urged residents to form neighborhood watches to deter crime. He said the Police Department will send out crime prevention officers to help residents set up such groups.
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