Murders in Puerto Rico at the close of 2014 numbered 680, the lowest figure since 2000 and a drop of 23 percent compared with the year before, something that police attribute to better crime detection and citizens’ cooperation.
The chief of the Puerto Rico Police Department, José Caldero, said in a statement to Efe that the reasons for the significant decline in the number of murders are to be found in those two points plus the commitment of all the cops on the force.
“The crime rate continues to drop as we get better at arresting criminals, dismantling their organizations and taking them to court. These achievements are thanks to the commitment of our police officers together with the Department of Justice and its team of prosecutors,” Caldero said.
The police chief said that “citizens’ cooperation has also been fundamental,” because “every day we get tips that help our investigations.”
“Our plan of operations focuses on three main objectives: detection, prevention and citizen service,” the top officer of the PRPD said.
Caldero noted that the creation of a high-profile investigative division has been key to driving the crime rate down, and an example of that is the percentage of cases solved of Type 1 crimes – including murder and rape – which has now risen to 78 percent, compared with 68 percent at the end of 2013.
The drop in the number of crimes this year was 30 percent compared with 2012 and 41 percent compared with 2011, the year when 1,164 violent deaths marked the highest number since such statistics began to be kept in Puerto Rico.
Murders on the Caribbean island went on an upward curve starting in 2000, though it was after 2008, with the effects of the economic crisis still suffered in the U.S. commonwealth, when the numbers went through the roof to make security Puerto Rico’s biggest problem.
Caldero became police chief last April 29 after five other chiefs had “paraded” through that office in recent years, and who for different reason weren’t on the job long enough to carry out long-term prevention policies.
The decline in murders has coincided with the internal conflict taking place within the island’s security forces due to the discontent of policemen over their wages.
For several days during the past two weeks, cops made good on their threat to carry out a somewhat undercover walkout, with an absenteeism almost five times greater than usual.
The policemen’s ill feelings originated with the Legislature’s approval of a reform of public employee pensions, which in general were bad news for both their working conditions and their retirement.