By Mellica McPherson
The reduced hours of the West End Police Station were debated in the House of Assembly on 13 June, because Representative for the First District, Hon. Andrew Fahie, in whose constituency the facility is located, announced that the situation troubles him deeply.
During the questions and answers section of the House, the Representative, who is also an Opposition Member questioned Premier, and Minister for Finance, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith as to why the West End Police Station was only open and accessible to the public for limited hours rather than for 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Hon. Fahie also asked when the problems with the West End Police Station Building will be fully addressed and rectified; when will the West End Police Station be fully functional; and whether there are any immediate plans to temporarily relocate the West End Police Station to another location within the First District and if not why?
He was told by Premier Smith that the West End Police Station is in need of major structure repairs and that faults include a leaky roof and general disrepair. The Premier said that barracks were closed because not suitable for the purpose in their current state.
However, Hon. Smith stated that the police still provide mobile patrol instead of remaining in the police station at night. He announced that there were no plans to move the West End police station to another location in the First District. Nonetheless, the Minister for Finance said that it is his understanding that the neighbourhood officer for West End is regularly out in the community and he noted that it is important for the public to know that the West End area is actively monitored by the RVIPF.
Premier Smith mentioned that there is still the same number of officers deployed to patrol the West End area as there has previously been, and noted that the intent of the government is for the West End Police Station and all others to be improved to a level that is reflective of modern policing quarters when funding becomes available.
The answer was apparently not satisfactory to Hon. Fahie who raised the issue again during the Other Business/Private Members Business segment of the sitting as he explained that the Premier’s answer left him with a heavy heart and gave him bad news to report to his constituents.
Hon. Fahie said: “I would like to say Premier, that the sooner that the West End Police station is looked at and reopened the better….I don’t want to say it is being compromised because of fund. I don’t want to make a political football out of it, but I will consistently be on it because of the Station. We are not talking about some little thing here we are talking about security of the country. If the station is closed for whatever the reason is, that is understandable no one can argue about that; but alternate means to have it addressed, that (police) presence is there in the First District area. That’s not a small area by no stretch of the imagination, and to leave it unmanned, and I heard the answer of the Premier about the patrol is not something that I take as an answer that I can take back to the people of the First District with great joy.”
The Opposition Member explained that he tried to get answers from the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force about the situation. In fact, Hon. Fahie said he enquired why the Force did not arrange for an alternate venue in the District: “I have asked already of the police why don’t they seek another area in the First District, even if they have to rent …I asked why don’t we try to get into the Post Office Building or some other government building that is owned,….that is something that they have to come to government because it belongs to another Ministry. I am concerned, I am very concerned and I cannot sit,” Hon. Fahie lamented.
“I am very serious about this matter and I don’t think enough emphasis is being placed on this matter of security of the people of the First District not from what I heard today….They (police) are not going to patrol through the village from 8:00 in the night till 8:00 in the morning then they have come back down West End they have to go somewhere to sleep and we have been made to understand that that sleeping headquarters is over in Cane Garden Bay,” he added.
As he bemoaned the situation, Hon. Fahie explained that the reduced hours problem has had an effect on the psyche of his constituents, who now have a lackadaisical approach to crime and justice: “When you have all of these businesses in the First District most of them locally owned and you have the crimes that are happening. We are talking that crime is downward I am not going to get into an argument, but we have a lot crime where people have reached to the point where they are not reporting…I have heard persons in the First District with little things that happen say that they are not going to call given the hour of the night 10/11:00 because it’s nothing big. Now because they have to come from Cane Garden Bay and not out here already they are not going to call so just leave that let it go so. People now are beginning to compromise with seeking justice…I don’t think this is somewhere we should reach to so I am asking the premier to sit down,” he noted.
In offering a solution to the matter, Hon. Fahie suggested that the West End Post Office Building be converted to a temporary housing of the police as he opined that the building has space that can accommodate this move and is owned by Government so there will be no need for rent.
In response to the comments Hon. Smith also addressed the issue a second time. The Premier stated: “The police station has been in disrepair for quite some time it has been deteriorating, and this has gone on for several years not just yesterday, but for some time. The police has made alternate arrangements until this situation can be rectified and the alternate arrangements which have been made allow the same kind of patrols that have been existing before…”
The BVI Leader added: “Those arrangements will continue at the same time. I understand the needs of the people in the area to feel safe. I will have a discussion with the Commissioner of Police and those responsible about speeding up the commissioning of the police station. Either that particular station or wherever else is necessary to have the police situated, so that the people of Carrot Bay could feel safer.”