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Governor Bryan on Violent Crime in USVI: ‘We must all be brave’

St. Thomas — Governor Albert Bryan Jr. released a statement on Tuesday evening addressing a “wave of gun violence throughout the territory.” A week after taking the oath of office as the the 9th governor of the the United States Virgin Islands, the newly-sworn in governor is taking action on crime in the territory.

The governor on Tuesday addressed violent crime in the territory after several murders on St. Croix this month and a recent campus incident at the University of the Virgin Islands’ St. Thomas campus.

“While I assure you that our Virgin Islands Police Department has launched immediate investigations into these incidents and are working to bring those responsible to justice, I also want to assure you that our administration is being proactive in addressing the issues at the root of our persisting problem with [violence] in our community,” Governor Bryan said.

Americans in the mainland U.S. can’t seem to agree on gun reform, a move  advocates believe will prevent the deaths of countless U.S. citizens living in states and territories. Governor Albert Bryan Jr., Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach and the newly-sworn in 33rd Legislature will be tasked with tackling the issue that has plagued the territory and made national news in the past.

Former Governor Mapp found himself on national television in the days following hurricane Irma, after his administration signed an executive order granting the National Guard authority to seize weapons on all islands.

As recovery efforts continued, Mapp has used caution tackling gun control in the territory. The governor’s decision last September that authorized the National Guard to seize weapons in the territory was criticized by Republican lawmakers and received national coverage from Fox News and other news outlets.

Fox News redirected some of its programing to spotlight the governor’s new order, pointing out that it should be challenged because it violates the second amendment of the United States Constitution.

While Mapp — and many residents experiencing the aftermath of both storms — believed that looting, violence and chaos would follow, Virgin Islanders remarkably kept calm and focused on recovery efforts and the influx in federal aid.

The year-old executive order issued by former Governor Mapp can be read here.

Governor Bryan did not issue an executive order on Tuesday, however, this is the first glimpse into his administration’s stance on crime since taking office. Bryan also stated that his administration hopes to provide better opportunities for young people and to improve the socioeconomic conditions in the Virgin Islands.

The St. Croix Source published an excellent piece chronicling the murders that occurred in 2018 ending in November. This list has grown since but does a great job detailing how violent crimes occurred in the Virgin Islands, 11 months into the year.

“I want to also underscore the important need for us all, to take greater steps to take back our community,” Bryan added. “It will take courage and painstaking measures to make the changes we need to address the problems of lawlessness in our neighborhoods.”

The Bryan Administration appears hopeful they can start another movement in the territory, ending with “we must all be brave. Brave enough to say something when we see something wrong, brave enough to question and to appropriately discipline our children in our homes, and brave enough to take positive leadership roles in our communities and to look out for our neighbors as well as ourselves. Please get involved.”

The governor’s words focused less on heavy law enforcement and crackdowns, instead drawing on community leaders, activists and neighbors to help reverse the trend.

The administration acknowledged the studies completed in the territory, consent decrees from federal agencies and recent prayer vigils in communities, but said that “we need real action” to “improve the socioeconomic standing for many of our families.” Read the Bryan administration’s full statement here.

Amaziah and Makiel contributed to this article.