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Monday, April 21, 2014

24 litter control officers sworn in
Group will be part of govt-initiated tourism task force

Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider administer the oath of office to 24 new litter control apprehending officers during a ceremony Tuesday at the Governor's office conference room in Capital Hill. (Contributed Photo) Planning on discarding your trash just about anywhere? Think again, as a new generation of litter control apprehending officers is now ready to issue citations to violators.

On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider administered the oath of office to 24 officers who successfully completed the Litter Control Apprehending Officer certification course for the Litter Control Act.

Each of the newly certified officers was presented with a certificate of completion, a government-issued identification, and a citation book, authorizing them to cite persons who are caught littering.

The Litter Control program is a multi-agency collaboration led by the Coastal Resources Management Office along with other partnering agencies, namely the Division of Environmental Quality, Department of Public safety, and the Office of the Attorney General.

The program is a product of the government-initiated Tourism Task Force with the primary goal of enhancing the natural beauty of the island which continues to experience an upswing in the tourism industry.

Hofschneider congratulated the new officers during the ceremony that coincided with the proclamation signing for Environmental Awareness Month this April and CNMI Earth Day on April 22.

He reminded the officers of their responsibilities as part of the government’s larger effort to promote and encourage a more responsible and well-maintained environment.

“These new officers have a very important role in our community now. We are at a very exciting time in our history when our tourism industry is posting very encouraging figures. We all need to work together to keep our islands pristine and beautiful,” said Hofschneider.

The island has had apprehending officers. For several years now, these officers have stopped cracking down on littering violators, saying that the fines for these violators are steep considering the economic downturn in the CNMI.

DEQ director Frank Rabauliman said in an interview that they tried to address this issue through a bill that would amend the law by lowering down the fines.

“Unfortunately and for whatever reason we’re not aware of, it continues to linger in the Legislature. But the fact that there’s this new effort to beautify the island, we’ve come to a point where we said let’s not argue the point with the legislation because we have to enforce what’s in the law,” he told Saipan Tribune.

Rabauliman said the new apprehending officers are tasked to go out there and cite violators.

“The citations end up ultimately in the courts and the violators are answerable to the courts,” he added.

Rabauliman noted that the enforcement of the anti-littering law supports efforts to improve the island as a tourist destination as well as the “very commendable and noble work” by private businesses, civic groups, and other volunteers that conduct beach cleanups or adopt a place.

“We need to be out there to do the enforcement and that’s what we’re doing,” he said, adding that more individuals are expected to undergo the training and become certified litter control apprehending officers themselves.

The director urged the new officers to enforce what is stipulated by law. “If that means issuing a citation, issue a citation and let the courts deal with whatever the fine may be.”

Rabauliman also disclosed that involved agencies also posted anti-littering signs throughout the island as part of their public outreach to raise awareness about the litter control program.

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