The FBI recently published their annual report on crime in the United States. This report gives the crime rate for the nation as a whole and for each state and some territories. In the United States as a whole, there were in 2013 4.5 murders for every 100,000 people. This was an improvement over the previous year of 5.2%.
In Puerto Rico, the rate was 24.4 per 100,000, a rate more than twice as high as in any state.
This year (2015) there have been 568 murders on the island this year. That’s an impressive 200 fewer than the numbers in 2013, but it is still higher than any state at 18.8 per 100,000… and the year is not yet over.
The crime rate is still far too high, but the accomplishment is significant. This year Puerto Rico could see very nearly the lowest number of murders in the century so far. What’s different about 2014?
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice provided over $3.3 million to help Puerto Rico cope with crime.
The Department of Homeland Security also provided more assistance to Puerto Rico, as has the Coast Guard.
Most U.S. citizens might expect that Puerto Rico, as a possession of the United States, would receive the same assistance as states in dealing with crime. That is not the case.
As Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner, Pedro Pierluisi, pointed out at a Puerto Rico Cultural Heritage Event in Massachusetts last fall,
But let’s be honest with one another. If the appalling violence we have been experiencing in Puerto Rico were taking place in any state, the response from the federal government would be immediate, it would be strong, and it would continue until the problem was alleviated.
The homicide rate in Puerto Rico is strongly tied to the drug trafficking in Puerto Rico. As the U.S. southern border is more strongly guarded, the more weakly guarded route through Puerto Rico to the mainland becomes more appealing and more vulnerable to criminals.
With greater federal attention to Puerto Rico, and particularly to drug trafficking through Puerto Rico, has come a lower rate of murder and other violent crimes on the island.
Pierluisi, who has been fighting throughout his tenure for more resources to cope with crime in Puerto Rico, said this in a recent meeting with the Commandant of the Coast Guard:
If you want to identify the reasons why Puerto Rico’s murder rate has fallen so significantly since 2011, enhanced efforts by federal law enforcement agencies like the Coast Guard are perhaps the single most important factor.
As a state, eligible for the same protections and resources as the other states, Puerto Rico could expect to see that murder rate continue to decline, along with the overall crime rate, until it reached the same level as that of the other states.
The bad news: until Puerto Rico attains statehood, its crime rate will probably remain high.
Are you ready to see Puerto Rico take its place as the 51st state? Sign the petition.