A program that bands together local taxi drivers, the V.I. Police Department and V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency is aimed at boosting territory-wide efforts to fight crime.
Called "Taxi Watch," the new crime prevention initiative is part of a recent memorandum of understanding between the three entities. Already operational in the St. Thomas-St. John district and on its way to St. Croix, the program gives the taxi drivers a direct link to VITEMA’s emergency 911 center to report crimes or suspicious behavior, according to a VIPD news release.
"Taxi operators have allowed police to access their individual radio frequency to allow them to directly contact 911 to transmit and receive information," the release said. "Operators can also use their cell phones to contact 911."
Assistant Police Commissioner Raymond L. Hyndman said the program is similar to other nationwide crime prevention and neighborhood watch programs, but has the "added benefit" of using taxis that drive the streets daily to help be the department’s "eyes and ears."
"The taxi drivers are an excellent resource in territory-wide crime prevention efforts," Hyndman said. "They go everywhere and see everything. With this program the entire island becomes a neighborhood watch area."
The initiative fits in with the department’s ongoing community patrol efforts, added Police Commissioner Novelle E. Francis Jr.
"This innovative project is not only an invaluable resource for the VIPD, but also brings an advanced level of ownership to these community members," he said. "It is the highest level of community policing."