Law enforcement officials promise a crackdown. Puerto Rico’s murder rate is far lower than its peak of seven years ago, but it is four times that of the mainland U.S. and is more in line with countries like Mexico.
Puerto Rico long has had one of the highest murder rates in the U.S., almost all of it attributable to gang violence. A recent spree of brazen daylight killings, some of which were captured on video and widely shared on social media, have shaken the population and worried law enforcement officials, the New York Times reports. On Jan. 6, several men engaged in a shootout near the San Juan airport, leaving one man dead. On Wednesday, a gas station security camera captured a gunman in a ski mask who calmly walked up to a Honda, fired at its driver and left. On Thursday, Kevin Fret, an openly gay musician with a large social media following, was gunned down as he rode a motorbike before dawn. With headlines reporting that 22 people had already lost their lives violently in the first few weeks of 2019, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló convened a meeting of law enforcement officials, who promised a crackdown.
While Puerto Rico’s murder rate is far lower than it was at its peak seven years ago, nearly 5,000 police officers have quit in recent years and a former police chief says she is afraid to leave her house after dark. Twenty-five years after Puerto Rico made headlines by sending its National Guard to patrol urban neighborhoods, the island is one of the most dangerous places in the world. Héctor Pesquera, the public safety secretary, plans to identify the most violent gang members who committed most of the recent turf-battle killings and target them for prosecution. Puerto Rico recorded 641 murders in 2018, down 10 percent from 710 the year before. For comparison, the island set a record of 1,135 homicides in 2011 — 30 killings for every 100,000 residents. At 20 per 100,000, Puerto Rico’s murder rate is four times that of the mainland U.S., and is more in line with countries like Mexico.