Two House of Representatives bills seeking to strengthen laws against home invasion and burglary or theft are now headed to the Senate. One seeks to make home invasion a felony and a separate violation under CNMI law, while the other one creates a new registry for persons convicted of burglary, robbery, or theft, similar to the existing registry for sex offenders.
By a vote of 15-0, the House passed without amendment at 3:34pm on Thursday Rep. Roman Benavente’s (Ind-Saipan) House Bill 18-120 that requires all persons convicted of burglary, robbery, or theft to register with the Department of Public Safety.
The burglary registry seeks to notify the community about the location of registered offenders when necessary to ensure public safety.
“If you are a frequent violator, it will be let known [to the public]. Based on DPS recommendation, this bill will also serve as a deterrent. Once you’re in the registry, the community will know that you were convicted of burglary, theft, or robbery,” Benavente said during the session.
House Speaker Joseph Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) and Rep. Lorenzo Deleon Guerrero (Ind-Saipan) also spoke of the merits of HB 18-120 or “The Burglary, Robbery and Theft Offenders Registration Act.”
“It is an [added] tool for DPS similar to the sex offender registry. Not only the community will know where [burglars] reside but DPS will also know where they reside,” the speaker said.
Deleon Guerrero, for his part, said tourists are also victims of thefts, hurting the CNMI’s only major industry.
According to the bill’s author, the CNMI has seen so many burglary, theft, and robbery cases the past few years. In 2008, the cases totaled 1,956 and went up to 2,079 in 2009. The number of cases reached 1,687 in 2010; 1,817 in 2011; 1,560 in 2012; and 257 in the first quarter of 2013.
Benavente, in his bill, said there had been 14 murders committed in either the homes of community members or as a result of robberies since 1995.
The House also passed without amendment at 3:44pm on Thursday Rep. Christopher Leon Guerrero’s (Ind-Saipan) House Bill 18-181, which seeks to provide more legal protection for victims of home invasion. The bill passed by a vote of 15-0.
The author introduced the bill in March, owing to the increased number of burglaries, robberies, or some form of home invasions, at least 16 of which also resulted in 16 homicides since 2005. Other crimes in victims’ homes also included rape, assaults, and other violent crimes.
Leon Guerrero earlier said the Commonwealth “still does not have an anti-home invasion statute” despite the many violent crimes committed against its people.
Co-authored by four other House members, the bill seeks to amend Title 6 of the CNMI Code to add a new section on home invasion crimes. A person is guilty of the offense of home invasion, a felony, if a person enters or remains unlawfully in an inhabited dwelling with the intent to commit a crime where a person is present or with the intent to use force or violence upon another person, or to vandalize, deface or damage another’s property in the course of committing the offense, the bill states.
HB 18-181 proposes to make home invasion a felony, punishable by 10 to 25 years in prison, with a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, without parole, and a fine not less than $10,000 but not more than $50,000, or both.