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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Resident commissioner to prosecutors: PR has highest homicide rate in US

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón

By The Star Staff

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón participated over the weekend in the meeting of the National Association of District Attorneys, the nation’s oldest and largest national organization representing state and local prosecutors, during which she pointed out that Puerto Rico has the highest homicide rate among state jurisdictions in the United States.

The resident commissioner highlighted the central role of prosecutors within the criminal justice system and the challenges they face at the local level. According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations and the U.S. Border Patrol, she said, about 44% (135,000 pounds) of the 307,000 pounds of cocaine seized across the United States between fiscal years 2020 and 2023 were seized during operations conducted by the San Juan Field Office and the Ramey Border Patrol Sector in Puerto Rico and the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer, in 2022 the homicide rate in Puerto Rico stood at 18.1 homicides per 100,000 people, the highest rate compared to the rest of the states and almost three times the national average of 6.3 homicides per 100,000 people, the resident commissioner noted.

“This situation certainly has serious local implications, as it contributes to violent crime in our communities and streets, affects mental health, decreases quality of life, and fuels the above-average homicide rates I alluded to earlier,” González Colón said Saturday in a written statement. “However, the drug threats and public safety risks we face in Puerto Rico cannot be viewed simply as a local or regional problem, as this has national repercussions and affects the jurisdictions and communities we serve, and must be posed as a significant national security risk for the entire United States. As Puerto Rico’s sole representative in Congress, I have long advocated to ensure that the federal government responds accordingly, prioritizing resources, assets, and joint operations to address crime and improve public safety on our islands.”

González Colón mentioned some of her legislation to tackle crime, such as House Resolution 920, the Caribbean Border Counternarcotics Strategy Act, which requires by law that the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) develop a comprehensive federal strategy to help combat drug trafficking from the Caribbean region to the United States.

To further strengthen the federal government’s response to illicit narcotics trafficking, she also incorporated language into the bill to ensure that the National Drug Control Strategy explicitly includes efforts to disrupt money laundering and the financial networks of drug trafficking organizations.

“As prosecutors, you understand better than anyone that if we want to go after these criminals, we must hit them where it will hurt them the most: their wallets,” González Colón said.

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