Bill would raise threshold for grand larceny in V.I.


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A bill held up in the Committee on Homeland Security, Justice and Public Safety on Wednesday would have increased the penalties for people who steal expensive items.

During a committee meeting at the legislative building on St. John, senators and law enforcement officials discussed whether they should increase the threshold for grand larceny and whether they should impose a minimum one-year imprisonment sentence for the crime.

The current threshold for grand larceny is the theft of something worth $100 or more.

When the bill initially was presented in September, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Sammuel Sanes, suggested that the threshold be increased to $1,000.

During discussions at Wednesday's Senate committee meeting, that value was dropped to $600, then to $250, though those numbers were not included in the amended, proposed bill on Wednesday.

Senators and law enforcement officials both said that they agreed the current $100 threshold was too low, but they also expressed concern that increasing the value would encourage people to repeatedly commit the crime.

"To me, changing the threshold from $100 to $1,000, that's like telling criminals to steal anything for $999 and down," said V.I. Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr.

As the V.I. Code stands, stealing anything worth less than $100 classifies as petit larceny.

However, the discussion about the proposed bill did not determine what the new threshold would be.

The other component of the bill is that it could impose a minimum sentence of one-year imprisonment for grand larceny.

Querrard expressed his support for the proposed minimum sentence, though V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer and V.I. Chief Public Defender Samuel Joseph disapproved of the idea.

"We should leave the sentencing to the judge, who can consider all the circumstances," said Joseph.

Frazer agreed, stating that minimum sentences usually are for crimes that entail violent acts or acts that seriously harm others. He also said that, without the minimum sentence, it would be easier to work with defendants to come to plea agreements.

"We really should not put more people in there than we really need to," Frazer said, referring to sending people to prison.

After more discussion, the bill ultimately was held in committee, and it will be revised to include amendments that are expected to take into account the counsel of the law enforcement officials.

Also during Wednesday's meeting, the committee held two other bills, including one that would address the crime of home invasion.

The home invasion bill's sponsor, Sen. Diane Capehart, said that it requires further editing, so the committee voted to hold it until edited.

The other bill, sponsored by Sen. Janette Millin Young, was held because of her absence.

That bill would establish a V.I. Comprehensive Crime and Public Health Task Force.

- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email jkane@dailynews.vi.

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