Community safety and policing

Christiansted, VI
United States

Caribbean Exploratory Research Center at the University of the Virgin Islands

Accessing data to inform public policies and leverage local funds to combat crime, implement prevention programs, and revise school disciplinary policies in the US Virgin Islands.

Due to the territorial status of the US Virgin Islands, there is an inherent inequity in the support it receives from the federal government in the areas of public infrastructure, education, health care, and law enforcement. This has affected crime and crime-prevention strategies in recent years: thousands of infractions have been reported across public schools and communities yet only a small proportion of arrests have been made. High levels of crime can negatively affect neighborhood safety, academic achievement, community engagement, and relevant social determinants of health. Access to Racial and Cultural Health Institute (ARCH) plans to address these concerns in partnership with the Caribbean Exploratory Research Center (CERC) using a mixed-methods approach to improve community health and safety.

ARCH and CERC will conduct listening sessions with neighborhood associations and the faith-based community; hold focus group discussions with police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and students; and interview key informants including neighborhood leaders, elected officials, and educators to understand community priorities, safety concerns, and current safety and disciplinary policies and programs. Individuals with lived experience will be invited to serve on a Project Advisory Committee along with representatives from key governmental and non-governmental agencies and community-based organizations. CERC will also conduct a content analysis of existing policies from the Virgin Islands Code and the Virgin Islands Department of Education, administer a survey of students and neighborhood organizations to understand perceived safety concerns and analyze data on crime statistics and student discipline.

These findings are expected to demonstrate the root causes of crime in the Virgin Islands and to help identify public policies specifically associated with structural racism. With this information, leaders and policymakers can manage how they allot funds, revise and develop policies, and support strategic interventions to reduce the incidence of violence and criminal activity, particularly in low-income neighborhoods.