Jenniffer González urges the Department of Justice and Homeland Security for resources to confront the security situation in Puerto Rico

January 9, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. - The resident commissioner, Jenniffer González Colón urged the Department of Justice of the United States and the Department of Homeland Security in a recent communication to increase technical assistance and resources in compliance with the law and security on the island.

This is one more effort by the congresswoman to improve national security measures and guarantee the security of the citizens.

In her letter to the Acting Federal Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker and the Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, González Colón addresses how Puerto Rico still has one of the highest crime rates in the United States but is not treated equally in the allocation of human resources in law enforcement agencies.

The congresswoman discussed with Secretary Nielsen the recent crisis in Puerto Rico in person yesterday, requesting additional resources as well as technical assistance to strengthen anti-drug safety on the island.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program for 2017, the territory has a higher murder rate20.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants—than any State and the District of Columbia.  Statistics reported by the Puerto Rico Police Bureau similarly show that the number of murders on the island has either increased or remained remarkably high over the last four years, with 588 homicides taking place in 2015, 679 homicides in 2016, 710 homicides in 2017, and 641 homicides in 2018. 

Local law enforcement agencies report that anywhere between 60 and 80 percent of murders committed in Puerto Rico are drug-related.  As you are aware, the island has long been exploited by drug trafficking organizations as both a destination and a transshipment point for illicit drugs that reach the mainland, endangering the lives of Americans in the territory and the continental United States. 

In 2017, for instance, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized close to 66,000 pounds of narcotics in and around Puerto Rico from cartels and smugglers, more than any previous year on record.  However, interdiction efforts were hampered by the devastating 2017 hurricane season. As the 2019 Threat Assessment from the Puerto Rico/USVI High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area indicates, damage inflicted by the storms severely diminished the operational capabilities of local and federal law enforcement on the island.

“In light of these developments, it is critical that the federal government take all necessary actions to ensure the safety and security of the 3.2 million Americans in Puerto Rico.  Therefore, I strongly urge DOJ and DHS to increase their law enforcement capabilities and personnel on the island.  I also ask that you provide technical assistance and actively engage with the Government of Puerto Rico to determine how to better assist the territory in combatting drug-related violence.”, said the Congresswoman in her letter.

In the letter, González-Colón calls for a detailed breakdown of the number of authorized positions in each of the component agencies by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security in Puerto Rico, and the number of positions that are currently vacant.

Moreover, the Congresswoman requested information on the efforts made by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to recruit and retain federal law enforcement officials in Puerto Rico and information on their efforts to address the serious levels of crime that threaten the lives of US citizens of Puerto Rico.

Previously, González Colón has worked from the Congress in different bills for the security of the Island. Among these bills that have been approved is the Maritime Border Security Review Act (HR 5869), a legislation of her authorship that required the Secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a detailed threat analysis at the maritime border of the United States, including the so-called Transit Zone and the borders and territorial waters of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.