Roundtable discusses proposed Crimes Against Tourism Act - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Roundtable discusses proposed Crimes Against Tourism Act

by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - Because crimes committed against those who visit our island has a negative impact on our economy, one lawmaker is leading the discussion on a crime-free zone and enhancing the penalties for those caught victimizing the island's tourists.

Senator Brant McCreadie told KUAM News, "All the stakeholders we have I think we could come up with a solution to let these people know that we're not sleeping. We're here to fight crime with punishment and we're here to protect our resources."

Calling together stakeholders from the visitor industry and law enforcement representatives as well as the Attorney General's Office, the senator is seeking input on a proposed Crimes Against Tourism Act of 2014 establishing crime-free zones. Attorney tom Fisher said, "The idea here is to create a zone that if you commit a crime, certain crimes not all, a zone that if you commit a certain type of crime that the court will have the authority to enhance the punishment."

Officials all agreed that tourists who are victimized often don't choose to return back to the island to testify against their perpetrators.  Chief Deputy Attorney General Phil Tydingco noted that last year, the office had more than 50 trials that required victims to return back to Guam.  Tydingco explained that with the upcoming trial of Chad DeSoto who is charged with the murder of three tourists and attacking and injuring eleven others, the office will need to bring back an estimated 20 victims to testify.  Concerns were raised about whether there's adequate funding to make that happen.

Tydingco said, "We believe the intent to strengthen our sentencing enhancements based on the status of the victim is an important concept. It's not new."

The AG's Office is not in support of crime zones saying it could become a public relations nightmare if tourists hear Tumon referred to as a crime zone. Additionally they noted that crimes don't just happen in Tumon, but areas around the island. "We would submit that you could amend this statute into a vulnerable victim enhancement meaning that you can increase the punishment if these crimes were committed for example against children, minors or elderly anyone over 60, or tourist, anyone who is defined as the following," said Tydingco.

While it's still a work in progress, Senator McCreadie says the intent is simple and he will now work with government experts and his legislative colleagues to polish the draft legislation and expand the measure to spot zone other areas that are frequented by visitors and locals alike. 

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