ST. THOMAS – The 35th Legislature’s Committee on Homeland Security, Justice, and Public Safety, chaired by Senator Kenneth L. Gittens, convened in a meeting at the Fritz E. Lawaetz Conference Room. Lawmakers were updated on the 71st Crucian Christmas Festival safety, parking restrictions, and accommodations. Separately, senators voted in the affirmative for a bill regarding the expungement of arrest records. All approved items on the agenda will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.
Some of the preparations for the Crucian Christmas Festival are inclusive of attending weekly meetings with the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD), the Department of Public Works, the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network to strategize on safety measures, parking, and events such as the parade and J’ouvert routes, according to Shamari Haynes, Deputy Commissioner for the USVI Department of Tourism (DOT). To date, there are twenty-eight registered booths, nineteen registered food fair vendors, seven registered adult parade troupes, and three registered children parade troupes. Senator Gittens urged the DOT to increase the number of portable bathrooms to avoid long lines during the festivities.
Weighing in, Ray Martinez, Commissioner of the VIPD, noted that the deployment of the VIPD’s mobile command station, a cutting-edge hub that, when mobilized, links and acts as VIPD’s onsite communications center, is at the forefront of the operating plan. Furthermore, VIPD will utilize drones, temporary cameras, and digital equipment to ensure wide-coverage surveillance. Senator Novelle Francis, Jr. inquired about making the public aware of traffic diversions for the duration of the festival. In response, Martinez stated that VIPD will issue public advisories and traffic updates. Meanwhile, Dodson James, St. Croix Deputy Commissioner of Operations at the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works, shared that DPW is making progress clearing the grounds and guts for the parking lot, village booths, and carnival rides. To enhance lighting, low-hanging branches were removed, and potholes in the roads were patched.
Separately, senators voted and approved the following: Bill No. 35-0178- An Act amending Title 5 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 314, to add a section 3732a to allow for automatic expungement of arrest records upon a finding that arrest lacked probable cause and amending Title 3, Virgin Islands Code, chapter 33, section 881(g), item 9 relating to public records to designate expunged criminal records as confidential records. The bill sponsored by Senator Javan E. James, Sr.
However, the following was held in committee: Bill No. 35-0179- An Act amending Title 14 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 61, relating to gambling violations, and Title 32 Virgin Islands Code. Chapter 13, relating to the Virgin Islands Lottery Commission, to strengthen the enforcement tools against illegal gambling and lottery. The bill is sponsored by Senator Diane T. Capehart and Angel L. Bolques, Jr.
Senators present at the committee meeting are Kenneth L. Gittens, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Marvin A. Blyden, Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Javan E. James, Sr., Alma Francis Heyliger, Novelle Francis, Jr., and Franklin D. Johnson.
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