Five weeks after being sworn in as the top law enforcement officer in the Virgin Islands, Police Commissioner Mark Collins is looking to continue some of the initiatives started by his predecessor while putting his own stamp on the police force.
Noting that many residents are scared to come forward with information about criminal activity, Mr.Collins said during a Tuesday press conference that he plans to make himself a conduit between the police force and concerned residents.
“If there is a real concern about confidentiality, I am making myself available,” said Mr. Collins, who invited residents to call him at 368-7937 with tips about unsolved crimes in the coming month.
“It is a phone that only I will have access to. … I will give you my assurance that I will get my detectives to follow up on any information which provides legitimate leads to identify perpetrators and the necessary evidence.”
Help from abroad
The commissioner added that officers from other Caribbean jurisdictions and the United Kingdom are assisting with some of the unsolved cases in the territory, including the alleged murders of Earl “Bob” Hodge, Everton McMaster, and Matthew Daly Jr.
In the first few weeks of Mr. Collins’ tenure, he noted, the force also has made strides in the investigation into the murder of Catherine Pickering, arresting and charging seven suspects in relation to the robbery that led to her death.
Mr. Collins also reported advances in the long-stalled effort to outfit the territory with CCTV security cameras.
Fibre optic cables have been laid and poles erected for the CCTV system, said Mr. Collins, though he did not say whether any of the 178 cameras planned for Tortola and the 10 planned for Virgin Gorda are currently operational.
The new commissioner has also overseen a crackdown on driving offences, with officers seizing seven scooters and charging 53 people with various offences over the past two weeks, he said. Meanwhile, he hopes to better integrate the men and women of the force into the communities they police, he said.
Starting next month, police officers will be regularly dispatched to different schools, business districts, and places and institutions in the territory in a bid to build more trust between the police and members of the community, Mr. Collins said.
“I want them to get there [and know] the community,” he added. “They will be the face of the [police force].”