The Betteto Frett building in Wickhams Cay sustained heavy damage in Hurricane Irma are ongoing, but law enforcement officials said 72 people were inside when they conducted an early morning raid on Sept. 6 that led to the arrest of two Venezuelans accused of overstaying their landing permits. (Photo: JOEY WALDINGER)

Early in the morning of Sept. 6, officers with the recently formed Joint Task Force searched the Betteto Frett building in Wickhams Cay, where they arrested two Venezuelans who had overstayed the time allowed by their landing permits, according to a Sept. 9 press release from Chief Immigration Officer Ian Penn.

The two-and-a-half-hour operation included officers from the police’s Armed Response Vehicle Team and the Customs and Immigration departments, including the customs K-9 Unit, the press release stated.

All of the other 70 inhabitants that officers encountered in the building showed documentation that they were residing legally in the Virgin Islands, said Mr. Penn, who thanked members of the public for providing police with information that led to the arrests.

“Creating a safer community is the business of everybody who calls the BVI home, and we are encouraging the public to support law enforcement agencies,” Mr. Penn stated.

The operation

In the two years that Ramon Green has lived in the Betteto Frett building, Sunday’s operation was the second time that police have searched the building for people illegally residing in the territory, he said.

Officers entered at around 4:30 a.m. and proceeded to knock on every door in the building, asking each resident to show their passport and work permit, Mr. Green said.

The arrests came five days after task force officers stationed at sea tracked a vessel from West End to Road Harbour, where they intercepted the boat and arrested the two passengers onboard for illegal entry.

The various agencies that make up the task force are providing enhanced land patrols and 24-hour monitoring of the territory’s waters, which is being aided by three barges being used as staging grounds from which officers can survey the seas and launch into action to intervene in suspicious activity.

Each of these barges is being contracted for a price of $4,666.67 a day, Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone said at a recent press conference.