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Last updateTue, 10 Dec 2019 12am

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    Monday, December 9, 2019-12:25:45P.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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$200 fine on litter bugs won’t work

LITTER control officers are ready to enforce the 1989 law but are concerned about the hefty fine which officials believe is difficult to impose.

Division of Environmental Quality Director Frank Rabauliman and Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero believe that the $200 fine for littering is too large an amount and will make apprehending officers reluctant to cite violators.

In March 2009, then-Rep. Tina Sablan, a former litter-control officer herself, had the same opinion and believed that there would be more enforcement if the fine was reduced.

In separate interviews yesterday, Rabauliman and Deleon Guerrero said the “reinvigorated” effort to go after litter bugs is part of the tourism task force’s cleanup campaign.

DEQ is the lead agency in reactivating the litter-control officers while DPS will play a key role in providing certified instructors that will guide litter-control officers in apprehending violators.

Rabauliman said the vision of Gov. Eloy S. Inos and Lt. Gov. Hofschneider is to turn the CNMI into an enhanced tourism destination.

“So for our part we want to make sure that we have enforcement officers out there to enforce the anti-littering act. We also put up permanent anti-littering signs and we are trying to do a media blitz on anti-littering,” Rabauliman said.

However, the DEQ director said he also believes that there should be flexibility when assessing the fine based on severity of the offense.

He said his office has been recommending that the Legislature amend the anti-littering law and set a minimum fine of $25 and up to $1,000 for littering, depending on the severity of the offense and whether it is done deliberately and blatantly.

Whether it’s a first, second or third offense should also be taken into account, he added.

Rabauliman said the apprehending officers are “somewhat reluctant” to assess the $200 fine against litter bugs “given the economic situation that we have.”

In the meantime, he added, “we still have to do what we have to do and that is to go out there and enforce the law,”

For his part, Deleon Guerrero said $200 “is quite a hefty fine” so it would be best for litter-control officers to see that people comply with the law.

He said activating the litter-control program is an opportunity for the responsible agencies to take serious action “because the time for talking is over — we have to start cracking down on litter bugs.”

As of yesterday, there were 26 litter-control officers from different government agencies, according to DEQ toxic waste manager and littering-coordinator David Chargualaf.

The officers include five from DPS and seven from DEQ. The rest are from the Department of Public Works, the Saipan mayor’s office, Coastal Resource Management and the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Chargualaf said they will train more litter-control officers today.

The trainers are DPS officers who have been certified as instructors.