Puerto Rico’s Drop in Crime

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Last week, Danica Coto (Boston.com) reported that “Amid its struggles, Puerto Rico enjoys drop in crime” and that the crime wave that marred the island’s image in recent years appears to have ebbed, with homicides decreasing and both residents and police adopting new measures to track problems and improve public safety. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

The island of 3.7 million people had 681 homicides in 2014, the lowest number in nearly 15 years and a drop of 40 percent since murders reached a record high of 1,164 three years ago. Violent crime overall fell 17 percent over the same period. Credit for the decline goes to a number of factors, from increased efforts to prevent crime to a broader trend of declining violence across the United States and the Caribbean.

Luis Romero, whose son was fatally stabbed during a holdup in 2011, is among the Puerto Ricans who have helped turn the tide. Following the death of his 20-year-old son, Romero used his skills as the owner of a telecommunications services company to create a mobile app that allows users to anonymously report suspected crimes to police. So far, it’s been downloaded more than 40,000 times and has been used to send in more than 6,800 tips. ‘‘The people have said enough is enough,’’ Romero said. ‘‘Puerto Rico got fed up with the level of crime.’’

2011 was seen by many as a low point for Puerto Rico. Not only did homicides peak, but the FBI expanded its involvement in the U.S. territory after a Justice Department report found widespread problems in the island’s police force, including corruption, illegal killings and civil rights violations.

Seeking to crack down on the most serious crimes, the FBI and other federal agencies took charge of cases that involved armed suspects with previous criminal records. Suspects detained by federal agents are subject to being held without bond, and the system has a 97 percent conviction rate. The FBI also expanded its authority in handling carjacking cases, a key to deterring criminals from stealing cars to commit other crimes. The bureau and other federal agencies also flew in personnel from the U.S. mainland to help bring Puerto Rico’s crime wave under control. As a result, the island has experienced a ‘‘dramatic’’ improvement in public safety since 2011, said Carlos Cases, the FBI special agent in charge for the island.

[. . .] Use of the crime-tip mobile app, led by an anti-crime organization known as ‘‘Basta Ya PR’’ meaning “Enough is enough, Puerto Rico,” has been part of the change. The app allows people to easily alert police to suspected crimes such as assault, robbery, domestic violence and child abuse.

[. . .] Puerto Rico’s drop in crime comes amid a long-term trend of declining rates of violent crime across the region. In Jamaica, killings in 2014 were the lowest in 11 years and down roughly 40 percent compared with a record 1,680 in 2009. Trinidad and Tobago saw a 27 percent drop in killings from the 2008 high of 547. And in the Dominican Republic, there were fewer than 2,000 killings in each of the past two years for the first time in more than a decade. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.boston.com/news/world/caribbean/2015/01/14/amid-its-other-struggles-puerto-rico-enjoys-drop-crime/1eJrMB2hWSg1oyIe9EzyMI/story.html

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