The Royal Virgin Islands Police Force is still pursuing looters who took advantage of the damages caused by hurricane Irma last September. While some arrests have taken place Commissioner of Police Michael Mathews told legislators that efforts to identify looters are ongoing now even as the Territory approaches a new hurricane season.
The lootings that occurred in the aftermath of nefarious Irma affected many businesses in the community, and the police was called upon to make an example of those who took advantage of a tragic situation.
Answering this call is still a priority of the Force. This was noted in an update on the looting enforcement measures by Commissioner Matthews. In fact the head of the Force told legislators during his appearance before the Standing Finance Committee that to date, 15 individuals have been charged with looting offences in respect of four separate offences.
In providing a breakdown of the arrests the Commissioner said that seven persons were charged in relation to one looting incident, three in relation to another, two in relation to another and another three in relation to another instance.
Commissioner Matthews said that more arrests are coming because the force continues to work through video footage and photographs to identify other offenders.
The pursuit of looters commenced since September. In fact, in November the Commissioner expressed his disappointment that persons looted after the storm as he pointed out that the looting is a reflection of a very small percent of the society.
“Sadly looting as it is commonly known where people took it upon themselves to break into homes and businesses and help themselves, something that I was pretty disappointed to say the least that people here resorted to that at a time when the Territory was on its knees and people had suffered tremendously, people took advantage of that situation,” he said.
He explained that the Force is exercising no tolerance for looters and police are busy arresting persons who were caught in the act based on documented photos and videos: “We’ve been successful we’ve made arrests and I made the unusual step of publishing details of people that we have arrested and charged and putting their photographs out for the media to see and I think that’s important.”
The Commissioner lauded the efforts of the community in sharing photos and videos of looters. “I did an appeal sometime back and we have been overwhelmed with the amount that has come in and our intelligence team are working very long hours to piece together exactly what has happened and we are identifying a lot of people, so further arrests I anticipate will be made,” he said.
Mr. Matthews also pointed out that persons need to refrain from generalizing stereotyping as it relates to the origin of the looters. “I think the public needs to understand that these are people that have come from miles away to come here just to loot these are people living here in our communities and they weren’t just expats they were expats involved in that but there were also locals involved in that and those enquiries will continue.”