Community Safety and Policing

US Virgin Islands
United States

Caribbean Exploratory Research Center at the University of the Virgin Islands School of Nursing
Social media handle(s)
@protectourselvesvi (Instagram)

Accessed 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 their territorial status, the US Virgin Islands receive inherently inequitable support 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, as thousands of infractions have been reported in public schools and only a small proportion of those have resulted in arrests. High levels of crime can worsen neighborhood safety, academic achievement, community engagement, and relevant social determinants of health. Access to Racial and Cultural Health Institute worked to address these concerns in partnership with the Caribbean Exploratory Research Center using a mixed-methods approach to promote action toward improving community health and safety.

The two organizations gathered a wide array of perspectives to learn about people’s priorities and concerns related to public safety and about the existing safety and disciplinary policies and programs. They surveyed people across the US Virgin Islands, including students, parents, and other community members; held focus group discussions with police officers and staff at community-based organizations; and interviewed students, elected officials, and education and health leaders.

The organizations found large differences in the public safety perceptions of the students and of the school staff in several areas, such as their sense of belonging and levels of incivility and disruption. For example, about three-quarters of staff reported feeling a sense of belonging compared with only about one-quarter of students. The project team will continue to share their findings in support of future efforts to explore these issues. They hope these efforts will begin a dialogue on community safety where residents feel comfortable discussing these critical issues they all face.