Stopping violence in all its forms has to be a key goal in Puerto Rico, especially amid the great challenge of gradually reactivating the economy and at the same time fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
The high incidence of criminal activity linked to organized crime during this last long weekend – on the eve of the new economic and social activities reactivation stage, as part of easing certain social distancing measures – demands precise governmental responses along with citizens´ cooperation.
A dozen murders were confirmed in just three days of a dozen murders, including a deadly shooting attack in Humacao whose innocent victims were a mother and her eight-year-old daughter, call for a review of police and other law enforcement strategies to speed up investigations and avoid impunity which fuels organized crime.
Citizens are also required to cooperate with authorities to put an end to gun attacks that damage social safety and cause so many families to mourn.
Experts on crime incidence on the island point out that police prevention and investigation strategies must be coordinated with strategically designed plans in the light of intelligence and confessions. Investigative rigor with support from federal authorities and efficient enforcement by specialized agents can bring criminal groups before justice.
In the short term, measures against the illegal trafficking of guns and controlled substances, with links to the United States as well as the Caribbean and Latin American countries, should be intensified. Anti-crime strategies must eliminate failed formulas, such as those that focus only on the punitive aspect and neglect prevention.
Police transit divisions are responsible for discouraging off-road vehicles from driving on state and municipal roads.
This past Memorial Day weekend, the behavior of citizens who took part in a caravan of “four-track” vehicles defying police patrols seeking to stop the illegal activity in Barceloneta caused outrage. A chase ended with two people being run over. One of the injured was a police officer who was yesterday hospitalized in a serious condition.
Discouraging such behavior, which sometimes includes children witnessing open defiance of the law, will also depend on families’ support.
On the other hand, recent domestic violence incidents call to urgently strengthen initiatives to fight this severe social problem. And this effort must be led by the departments of Justice and Family Affairs, in coordination with the courts and civil society organizations with experience in assisting victims and educating families and communities. Dozens of non-profits work to protect women, children, and the elderly affected by domestic violence. But given the rise in cases, they require more support and proactive coordination from the executive and judicial branches.
The most recent record of child abuse, which includes the case of a baby girl in Toa Baja who is suspected of a pattern of assault, joins other domestic violence incidents being recorded since March 15, when the curfew in response to the COVID-19 emergency began. Aggressors in the domestic context during the pandemic increases the potential for attacks. Experts recommend that family members and loved ones should be there to support and help women, children, and people with disabilities find a way out of high-risk situations.
This historic moment calls for a renewed commitment by authorities along with citizens’ solidarity, which will be crucial to advance in the fight against violence. The goal is to achieve respect for the dignity of human beings to forge a just and safe Puerto Rico.