A bill sent on to the Senate floor Wednesday would automatically allocate 60 percent of traffic fines to the V.I. Police Department, giving it an institutional incentive to more strictly enforce traffic laws and giving it a new, stable source of revenue.
Another 20 percent would go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and 20 percent of "fixed, nondiscretionary fines" would go to the courts.
Since portions of fines are not fixed and are discretionary, there is a small portion of fines that may still go to the government’s General Fund.
Sen. Sammuel Sanes sponsored the proposed legislation.
Other senators were broadly supportive.
Sen. Nereida “Nellie” Rivera-O’Reilly said during the Rules and Judiciary Committee hearing, "I just want to make it abundantly clear we are not increasing fines of any kind," but just reapportioning what happens to that revenue.
Sen. Janette Millin Young said she supports the measure but would prefer the Legislature be more specific about how the money that is generated is used.
"So, yes I support it conditionally but really it doesn’t go far enough," Millin Young said.
Sen. Novelle Francis, a retired career V.I. police officer, former police commissioner and former St. Croix police chief, said he hopes “it will serve as an incentive where they will go out and do some more enforcement."
He mentioned the "broken windows" theory of policing, which suggests that fixing broken windows and creating a general sense of law and order results in lower crime rates. Francis suggested if there were more traffic enforcement, it would cause some potential criminals to leave their contraband and weapons at home and be more wary before committing serious crimes.
It could also generate more money for the government and potentially for the Government Employee Retirement System, he said.
The committee also sent on a measure to rename the St. Croix road that passes by St. Croix Central High School after Edwin "Eddie" Ortiz, who passed away several months ago. It appropriates $10,000 for sign changes reflecting the new name.
A resident of Estate Profit, Ortiz was active in politics, involved in getting roads paved, and "very instrumental in getting funding for the park and other infrastructure within the community," Rivera-O’Reilly said.
Sen. Jean Forde said Ortiz advocated for issues from getting bus shanties to cleaning up garbage to drugs in the community, also giving toys to the community for Three Kings Day.
"He loved his community and loved helping others," Forde said, adding that Ortiz was "an individual whose actions are to be emulated."
Millin Young recalled Ortiz was honored by the Legislature with a resolution in 2012.
Sen. Justin Harrigan said he endorsed the effort but is concerned about the $10,000 appropriation, given the government’s fiscal situation.
Francis suggested the amount of money is inconsequential.
"Yeah we are in a financial hardship but we spend money on all kind of things," Francis said.
Rivera-O’Reilly said any remaining funds after paying for new signs would revert back to the V.I. treasury.
Both measures were approved unanimously and sent on to the Senate floor for a final vote.