After 27 years in the FBI, including several senior law enforcement positions in South Florida, I eagerly returned to my native Puerto Rico to become police superintendent last March. It’s a responsibility that bears considerable challenges. But I am confident that our police department, alongside our federal partners, and, above all, the great people of Puerto Rico will strengthen our safety and improve our quality of life throughout the island.
Since my appointment, we have created a “no-excuses” culture within our department. The results are clear. We are seeing greater accountability, more professionalism, stronger collaboration with our communities, and real progress in crime reduction.
So far this year, we have dramatically lowered the murder rate by 22 percent compared to 2011 in the five most vulnerable regions of Puerto Rico. We attribute this improvement, in part, to a new federal-state violent crime strike force that we are now expanding island-wide by 2013.
Our leaders, particularly Gov. Luis Fortuño, will do what is necessary to protect the people of Puerto Rico. To prepare 17,000 members of our police today for the challenges of tomorrow, we have designated our Bayamon West precinct as a “Zone of Excellence.” It serves as a learning laboratory for our officers, who acquire the best practices of 21st century constitutional policing. Over time, we will expand these Zones of Excellence across the island, so that every officer in every precinct is prepared to protect our neighborhoods.
Our overarching belief is that even one crime on our streets is one too many.
The progress that we have made in reducing crime is irrefutable. And if we work together to confront the greatest crime threat plaguing the Island — illegal drug trafficking — we can accomplish even more for Puerto Rico.
We estimate that nearly 80 percent of murders in Puerto Rico are related to drug trafficking through the U.S.-Caribbean border as transnational drug organizations increasingly use routes through the Caribbean to gain illegal entry into mainland U.S. markets from Florida to New York.
The Puerto Rico Police Department is doing everything within our limited jurisdiction and limited resources to confront this threat. Our state law enforcement agencies are working together every day with their federal law enforcement counterparts in Puerto Rico. Together, we accomplish more than separately and our combined efforts extend each other’s reach as evidenced by the success of the joint violent crime strike force.
But Puerto Rico is serving as the last line of defense and we lack the resources — human and material — commensurate with this threat to national security. That is why Gov. Fortuño has called on Washington to establish a U.S. Caribbean Border Initiative.
With more federal resources and manpower, backed by a national strategy that recognizes this security threat, we can do even more for the people of Puerto Rico and vulnerable mainland communities. With Washington’s support, we will reduce crime even faster.
And we will continue do whatever it takes to make the Puerto Rico Police Department one of the finest law enforcement organizations in America.
Last month, the Puerto Rico Police was inducted into the International Association of Chiefs of Police for the first time in Puerto Rico’s history. This organization, the world’s largest law enforcement association with over 20,000 law enforcement chief executives in 100 regions around the globe, evaluated the internal and operational performance of our police department before delivering the stamp of approval for membership.
Puerto Ricans have reason to be proud. We are achieving real results. And with Washington’s support, we can enjoy a quality of life that all Puerto Ricans expect and deserve.
Héctor M. Pesquera is superintendent of the Puerto Rico Police.