• The Star Staff

González Colón presents public safety and anti-drug trafficking agenda

By The Star Staff

Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón said Tuesday that on Sept. 30 a federal task force was created to deal with the ever-growing problem of gender violence on the island.

In 2019, the Puerto Rico Police reported 5,896 cases of domestic violence against women, while so far in 2020, the Office of the Women’s Advocate has reported 4,018 cases of domestic violence against women. Equally worrisome have been the spate of abductions of women in recent months.

“As a result of this alarming number and the recent cases of missing women, I asked the United States Attorney for Puerto Rico Stephen Muldrow to create a federal task force composed of federal and state agencies, non-profit organizations and institutions of higher education to address violence and violent crimes against women, and propose immediate and long-term measures to protect women against violence,” González Colón said.

The task force was announced recently along with new initiatives and resources assigned under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), she said.

González Colón is co-author of the bipartisan Reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act (Public Law 116-104), which allocates funds to states and jurisdictions to perform analysis of accumulated DNA samples from offenders and crime victims.

“As vice president of the Women’s Caucus in Congress, I have always supported equality and the safety of women,” she said. “As resident commissioner, my commitment is to continue advocating so that educational institutions, non-profit organizations and state agencies related to women’s issues continue to be allocated the necessary funds to combat domestic violence, to empower women to leave a relationship ahead of any violence.”

González Colón also expressed her dismay at the hate crimes that have been increasing on the island against transgender individuals.

She made her remarks at a news conference to discuss her public safety platform and initiatives to reduce drug trafficking.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been exploited as a destination and point of transfer for the illicit drugs. It is estimated that between 70 and 80 percent of the drugs transferred to the continental United States are funnelled through the islands.

González Colón, along with U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), published in June the Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy, updating the article on federal governments’ efforts and initiatives to reduce drug use and narcotics activity in Puerto Rico and the U.S.V.I. In it, three general objectives are established to counter criminal offenses, interpret interlocutory and application capabilities, and identify specific drug trafficking routes.

Among various points, the document indicates that historically the cases of assessments in these territories have been among the highest levels in the United States and that many, if not the majority, of homicides and other violent crimes are related to narcotics. According to law enforcement agencies, some 65 percent of all employees in Puerto Rico can be related to drugs.

According to the 2020 edition of the Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy, González Colón discussed with James Carroll, director of White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, his implementation and the need to try additional remedies to combat drug addiction and crime in Puerto Rico.

The president’s anti-drug czar traveled to the island to coordinate meetings with federal and island law enforcement bodies. At the end of the visit, Carroll publicly stated that his office would work to push federal and state agencies on the need to pursue effective action against these cases, and that Congress would then follow up.

Another initiative is the so-called Transit Zone, an area comprising thousands of square miles that includes the maritime corridors of the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean that is riddled with criminal activity.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, approximately 2,700 tons of cocaine went through the area in the fiscal year 2017, 2,892.4 in 2018 and 2,226 in 2019.

González Colón noted that she succeeded in getting resources allocated to the island to fight crime. An example of such efforts is that the San Juan Sector of the Coast Guard has the largest number of rapid response vessels -- seven of the 38 that have been commissioned throughout the nation, thus improving the capacity to combat drug trafficking in Puerto Rico.

The resident commissioner said she got the U.S. House Appropriations Committee to include language for federal law enforcement agencies to pay attention to public safety in Puerto Rico.

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