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States News Service
BYLINE: States News Service

St. Croix, Virgin Islands

The following information was released by the Virgin Islands Police Department:

Commissioner Novelle E. Francis, Jr. showcased the VI Police Department's new crime analysis and evidence storage facility on Wednesday, July 21. The facility is "unmatched anywhere in the Caribbean," according to St. Croix Deputy Chief Christopher Howell . Governor John de Jongh , St. Croix Police Chief Oakland Benta , forensic detectives and a slew of media accompanied Francis and Howell on the walk through.

Access to the 6,000 square foot facility is gained through biometric fingerprint scan. All unauthorized fingerprints are recorded and any attempt by unauthorized persons to access the facility will be investigated. A closed camera system monitors all access points and all sections of the facility. Inside, separate rooms are designated for ballistic testing and tracing, raising obliterated serial numbers off firearms, raising latent fingerprints off evidence, fingerprint analysis and processing and storing evidence. To preserve evidence that needs to be refrigerated there are two industrial grade units which sound an alarm if the temperature goes below a certain level. Biometric scans are required to access each section and in the case of the most secure vault, two persons simultaneously must enter parts of a code to gain access.

The facility was budgeted $500k and will be completed at least 100k under budget said Howell, who's hands-on approach in overseeing the renovations, equipment purchasing and final set up was the driving force behind the completion of the crime lab. Work on the facility began 14 months ago and is scheduled to be completed in about three months. A similar project is underway on St. Thomas and is just a few months behind. That facility was also funded at 50K.

The renovation corrects 30 years of problems in evidence storage and brings the department into the forefront of crime scene investigation technology. The US Interior Department conducted three audits in the last 20 years detailing problems and outlining recommendations to correct the issues. Three former commissioners called for the audits, hoping to get the support to make the changes.

The facility conforms to standards set by the International Association for Property and Evidence (IAPE). According to the IAPE website, "adhering to these standards should assure any agency that reasonable steps have been taken to obtain a secure and efficient property and evidence management system."

Commissioner Francis said, under the de Jongh administration, the funds were allocated and the work finally began.

"Within the police department I made sure this project remained a priority. This project will go a long way to increase public trust in the police department, now that we have a modern crime lab and evidence storage capabilities," Commissioner Francis said.

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