May 24, 2005 – "I was able to get involved with some seeding as well as weeding," said V.I. Detective Mirrett Benta as she was recognized Tuesday with a Community Policing Award.
The award was sponsored by Motorola and presented in conjunction with the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police conference. The presentation was made during a banquet at the Government House in Christiansted Tuesday evening. Two dozen police commissioners from various Caribbean islands and about 100 guests attended the event marking the end of the week-long conference entitled Protecting Our Tourism Product.
Benta and her civilian counterpart Raymond Williams earned the award through their work in the Grove Place Weeds and Seed program. Williams and Benta and their guests are receiving paid traveling expenses and accommodations for the next ACCP conference which will be held next year in Aruba.
Andy Gray, vice president at Motorola, told the audience, which included Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, Sen. Pedro "Pete" Encarnacion, and Pamela Richards, commissioner of tourism, that it was impressive that the V.I. program was able to pull a second place finish since this was the first time the Virgin Islands had competed for the award. The audience broke out in cheers and clapping when Benta and Williams went to collect the award.
The Weed and Seed program was, according to award documentation, "developed as a result of a need to provide guidance and support to members of a community which is plagued by social problems, poverty, high unemployment, female headed households, poor education and high incidence of drug abuse, crime and violence."
The award goes to programs that:
Serve as a catalyst for police officers to embrace the philosophy of community policing.
Encourage the community to work with the police to prevent crime and improve the quality of community life.
— Provide an incentive for corporate organizations to actively participate
The award was first introduced at the 2002 ACCP.'s conference and Gray announced that Motorola would be funding it again next year.
The seeding of which Benta was proud was her involvement with a drug prevention program with about 20 youngsters ages nine through 12. She said the group met on weekends for 10 weeks and discussed ways to handle stress and peer pressure without resorting to drugs.
She did not take credit for that program alone keeping youngsters off drugs. She said, "It was just one of many activities that youngsters can get involved in to help them stay away from drugs."
Williams said the Grove Place Weed and Seed Program, now in its fourth year, reaches out to community members of all ages. There are safe haven programs for young adults and there are Christmas parties for senior citizens.
He said the program has also drawn the community together so it can act with one voice when dealing with the government.
And "of course" he said the program has helped cut down crime in the community. He said that some of the youths identified as negative influences when the program began are now working.
He added, "What we need to do now is make sure we keep on top of the situation."
First place in category one, police forces of under 1,000 officers in which the Virgin Islands fall, went to Aruba.
Also presented awards during the banquest were Sgt. Thomas Hannah and Territorial Chief Novelle Francis for their work organizing the conference.
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