September 7, 2005 – "Some people are in compliance, and some people have not done anything," St. Thomas police officer Rosalyn Jarvis said Wednesday about the new tint compliance law that went into effect Sept. 6.
Police all over the territory have been cracking down on vehicles with dark tint on the windshields, and some citizens are not too happy about it. Deputy Police Commissioner Elvin R. Fahie Sr. said Wednesday that the department would continue "aggressive enforcement" of the tint laws. Fahie said the increased vehicle stops could translate into the seizure of illegal weapons and aid in crime reduction. "The law was written to protect the citizens," he said, adding that criminals target citizens far more often than they target police officers.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg is one citizen who is not pleased about the enforcement. In a press release issued from his office Wednesday, Donastorg said he submitted legislation Tuesday to suspend the law until an "in-depth study" can be conducted.
"The legislation was passed with the best intentions," Donastorg said in the release. "But I am not convinced that the law was written clear enough, nor is the level of allowable tinting adequate given our tropical climate."
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull signed the new vehicle tint regulations into law in February as part of the Omnibus Justice Act of 2005. The law sets the standards for windshield sunscreens and tinting. It originally set the percentage at 70, but after police received the tint measuring devices, they realized that 70 percent was too strict. In June, Police Commissioner Elton Lewis asked the Legislature to amend the law to 35 percent.
"The law is clear. It wasn't done overnight," Fahie said. Fahie said people who own vehicles that have factory tint don't have to worry about the vehicle's adherence to local laws. "They already meet federal standards," he said.
At a tint compliance session in Sunny Isles in August, James Charles, a police officer with the St. Croix traffic bureau, said newer vehicles are being made with built-in tint. However, some owners add more tint to the glass, causing the light transmittal to be less than the required 35 percent. Additionally, new vehicles are made with a 6-inch "shade band" on the front windshield. No additional tint can be legally added to the front windshield, he said.
"I don't see what is unclear about it," Jarvis said. Jarvis was one of the territory's officers who were trained on the tint-metering device used to test the tint level on vehicle windshields. "Most of the states have similar laws," Jarvis said, adding that she has issued one ticket since the law went into effect.
The voluntary sessions were held several times throughout the territory, testing close to 1,000 vehicles to find out if the tint on the windows let enough light in to be in compliance with the law. "Only about 5 percent" had tint that conformed to the legal limit. Jarvis said. "We need to be able to identify who is inside."
The police department has been running several commercials to increase public awareness of the law and the dangers posed to police officers and the public "The commercial has been out for two months; we gave them time." Jarvis said many residents told her they did not know about the new law.
"A lot of people just don't want to change," Jarvis said.
Penalties for noncompliance include a $200 fine for the first offence, $200 to $500 for the second offence and a fine of $500 to $1,000 and suspension of your license for up to one year for each additional offence.
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