ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary chaired by Sen. Janelle K. Sarauw, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building on Thursday, to receive testimony on Bill No. 33-0126-An Act amending Title 3, chapter 1 of the Virgin Islands Code by adding a new section 27i establishing the Virgin Islands Office of Gun Violence Prevention under the Office of the Governor. However, the Bill would not gain traction as it was voted to be held in Committee.
The measure seeks to establish and task the Virgin Islands Office of Gun Violence Prevention to develop effective strategies to reduce and prevent gun violence in the Virgin Islands. Furthermore, the bill calls for the Office to collaborate with non-governmental agencies and providers involved in gun violence prevention, organize initiatives to bring community awareness, establish a resource line for referrals and counseling, and to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the community. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Virgin Islands rank third in the world for gun violence according to statistics from the United Nations. We have to be ambitious to eradicate gun violence in our community while dealing with the COVID-19 Pandemic,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Sen. Myron Jackson, sponsor of the bill. However, Sen. Oakland Benta stated that the bill is redundant. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am a stern believer that this venture is one that exists within the government already to include the Bureau of Corrections, the Office of the Attorney General, the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, and the Virgin Islands Police Department.Ã¢â‚¬Â
To strengthen the bill, the Office of the Attorney General Denise George suggested establishing a timeline to analyze data, codifying a gun violence plan, and for the Office to collaborate with researchers from the University of the Virgin Islands and other academic institutions to assist with the process. In response to Sen. SarauwÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inquiry whether there is a disconnect between the V.I. Police Department and the Department of Justice; George mentioned that both entities have a very good relationship and work closely to combat crime in the Territory.
Separately, lawmakers voted and approved the following:
- Bill No. 33-0054- An Act amending Title 11 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 23 for Small Business Development.
- Bill No. 33-0106- An Act amending Title 6 of the Virgin Islands Code by adding a new chapter 11 prohibiting various uses of unmanned aircraft, also known as drones.
- Bill No. 33-0217- An Act authorizing the Department of Property and Procurement in conjunction with other agencies to refurbish the building located at No. 1 Norre Gade on St. Thomas and convert it into public restrooms to be used by the public, including tourists.
However, senators voted to hold in committee at the call of the Chair: Bill No. 33-0250- An Act amending Title 3, chapter 9, section 134a, subsection (b) of the Virgin Islands Code, relating to the duties of the Department of Public Works, Division of Capital Improvement in administering and coordinating capital improvement projects, to require that a Front-End Engineering and Design is completed for each capital improvement project of the various departments and agencies of GVI before the procurement of engineering and construction services.
All approved items will be forwarded to the Full Body for further consideration.