St. Thomas

St. John



Published: Apr 5, 2024

ST. THOMAS – The 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands’ Committee on Homeland Security,
Justice, and Public Safety, led by Senator Kenneth L. Gittens met in the Earle B. Ottley
Legislative Hall on Thursday. Lawmakers received an overview of safety and security efforts
ahead of the St. Thomas Carnival 2024 activities. This included updates on parking restrictions,
accommodations, environmental cleanups, permitting requirements, curbside pickup, trash
removal, trash containerization, and other related matters.

Ian Turnbull, Director of the Division of Festivals stated that the Division had hosted meetings
with representatives with various Carnival stakeholders. Priority topics during these meetings
focused on events logistics, community health and safety, and location preservation for all
official Division of Festivals events. The Division has also met with the Virgin Islands Water
and Power Authority to discuss the connection of utilities and staging of village booths. Mario
Brooks, Assistant Police Commissioner spoke of the ways that the Department would ensure
safety during the Carnival. Brooks stated that due to the sensitivity of the plans, specifics must be
left confidential, but assured the body that their strategies are comprehensive, innovative, and
tailored to address the challenges of coordinating a massive event. A key part of the operational
plan is deploying a centralized, real-time information center. This allows for instantaneous
response and access to real time surveillance of the Carnival Village and immediate areas,
dispatch capabilities, and comprehensive communication channels. The Department will be
deploying temporary cameras, utilizing drones, mobile surveillance cameras, camera systems,
and various forms of digital equipment enhancing surveillance capabilities during Carnival.

Horace Graham, Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs
delivered testimony. The Department usually collaborates with the Virgin Islands Police
Department to issue permits for activities during activities, such as Carnival. It is the
Department’s practice to issue special permits for such gatherings. It also allows food and
beverage vendors to participate in Carnival if they have received the necessary permissions from
the Department and the VIPD. Graham also informed the body that it is dedicating resources to
bolster the police presence to counteract any potential shortage of law enforcement personnel.
The Department’s enforcement officers, who operate under the VIPD’s guidance, will perform
compliance checks during Carnival. These officers will also tackle the prevention of
unauthorized and illicit activities.

Justa Encarnacion, the Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department stated that the Division
of Environmental Health maintains a close partnership with the Division of Festivals. The
Department convened meetings with vendors to ensure that Temporary Food Establishments
were operating properly. Encarnacion stated that enforcement officers would diligently patrol
and monitor key festival events to ensure proper operating procedure. All food vendors must
obtain permits from the Department of Health to operate any food establishment, whether it be
temporary, mobile, stationary, or permanent. All individuals operating Temporary Food
Establishments must also possess valid health cards, which must be displayed. They must also
provide laboratory results displaying negative tests for parasites. Individuals who hold a valid
ServSafe certificate may submit a copy of their certificate in lieu of laboratory results.

Reuben Jennings, Assistant Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works
stated that the Department met with Division of Festivals committee members, the Virgin Islands
Police Department, the Waste Management Authority, and other key stake members to prepare
for Carnival. The Department provides the Division of Festivals access to the Fort Christian
Parking Lot, to use as the venue for the St. Thomas Carnival Village. The Department is
responsible for preparing the area before the construction of the Village by patching uneven
areas, preparing bathroom facilities, and using the street sweeper to remove any debris or
construction material. The Department provides barricades for various events during Carnival.
The Department cleans after carnival events. The Department has been asked to provide
logistical support to the horse races, as this is the first time they have been held since 2017. The
Department assists with advertising road closures due to Carnival activities.

Roger Merrit Jr, the Director of the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority stated that the authority is
responsible for trash collection and removal from venues where there are official events that are
held by the Virgin Islands Division of Festivals. This includes the cleaning and preparation of the
village site, the disposal of trash by booth owners in designated bins in the vicinity of the village,
nightly cleanup of the village, and the proper disposal of cooking oil used in the village. Crews
are assigned as necessary to major festival events.

Chairman Gittens voiced concern about safety, stating that crowd control and management was
key. Gittens cited an incident of a fallen table the St. Croix Festival Village, which caused a state
of panic, and injuries to some village attendees. Chairman Gittens stated that he hoped for a
healthy and safe Carnival.

Senators present at today’s Committee meeting included Kenneth L. Gittens, Ray Fonseca, Diane
T. Capehart, Dwayne M. Degraff, Novelle E. Francis Jr., Alma Francis Heyliger, Javan E. James,
Sr., and Franklin D. Johnson.

The Division of Public Affairs is committed to providing the community with accurate
information on legislative proceedings and other events at the Legislature of the Virgin Islands.


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May 2024

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