Many residents in the St. Thomas/St. John District took advantage of the VIPD’s recent gun buy-back program, which netted an impressive collection of weapons taken off the streets.
The V.I. Police Department’s recent Gun Buy-Back program was a success with 48 deadly weapons turned in and almost $4,000 paid out during the two-day period.
All of the weapons were in good condition and 99 percent are able to be fired, explained VIPD Assistant Commissioner Raymond Hyndman, who oversaw the program in the St. Thomas/St. John District.
“If we are able to prevent one murder, or stop one person from getting injured by gunfire, we claim it as a success,” Hyndman said.
The weapons turned in included 22 revolvers, 17 pistols, four rifles and five shot guns. One weapon had an obliterated serial number. Three of the weapons — two hand guns and a long gun — were pellet guns.
“Pellet guns are very dangerous,” Hyndman said “A few years ago on St. Croix a woman was killed by a pellet gun and the suspect is now serving a murder sentence.”
Most of the guns obtained could really do some damage, according to Hyndman. Someone turned in a hand gun made by Derringer that had four barrels and could fire both 357 magnum and 9 millimeter rounds, he added.
The gun buy-back program was hosted on June 10 and 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day. The first gun was turned in almost exactly at 10 a.m. the first day and the last gun at 2 p.m. the next day.
The public should be proud of their participation, helping to reduce violence in the Virgin Islands, according to Hyndman.
There was a steady stream of people into the Taxi Association Headquarters turning in guns both days. Participants said they were grateful to have this chance to get rid of weapons that were in their homes, no questions asked.
One lady brought in a gun that was previously registered to her deceased husband. Another brought two guns in a bag and said it took her a long time to bring the guns in because she was scared to touch them — one of the guns turned out to be an authentic-looking toy gun. Another man brought in two guns and said he did not want any money for them; he just wanted to get rid of them.
The gun buy back program was funded by $10,000 given by a donor who approached Senator Shawn-Michael Malone about the project. The V.I. Community Foundation served as the funds’ fiduciary.
“Every illegal weapon taken off the street is a victory. We must continue to find creative ways to chip away at our violent crime problem and diminish the pervasive gun culture in our territory,” said Malone. “This was a true partnership and it demonstrates how effective we can be with greater cooperation and creativity. I would like to thank all the parties involved and to strongly encourage donors to come forward to ensure we can fund future initiatives, as this illegal firearm buy back program has been proven both necessary and successful.”
“Many lives have been saved with this weekends’ initiative,” VIPD Commissioner Novelle Francis Jr. said. “I want to reiterate that all hands are needed on deck to stem the flow, importation, illegal possession and illegal sale of firearms in the territory.”
“I commend Senator Malone, the donor and my staff for the success of this program,” said the VIPD Commissioner. “I send my congratulations and special thanks to the community who understood the importance of turning in the firearms.”