Shaw: Violence in Puerto Rico must not go unnoticed

Because of the lack of post-hurricane support, crime is prospering on the struggling island.

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Shaw: Violence in Puerto Rico must not go unnoticed

(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

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(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

TNS

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(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Nichole Shaw, Opinions Columnist

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Violence is rampaging throughout Puerto Rico, and nobody in the United States is paying much attention.

Instead, the U.S. is focused on building a wall to attempt to decrease drug trafficking and to keep illegal immigrants out.

In a country so divided by political parties, the U.S. community should at least agree that the violence in Puerto Rico, a territory the U.S. governs with full jurisdiction, must not go unnoticed. Larger efforts must be made and more support must be provided to end it.

Within the first 10 days of the new year, 24 people were murdered in Puerto Rico, according to a report by Univision. That is an astounding amount of violence in the first 10 days of this month. Compare that with St. Louis, the most violent city in the United States, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report. The St. Louis Police Department reports eight homicides as of Jan. 21. It’s apparent this is a huge problem the U.S. needs to recognize and work toward solving more earnestly.

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The violence in Puerto Rico can be attributed to a public-security crisis that stems from public mistrust in institutions and a lack of law-enforcement presence, at least in the streets. Despite Puerto Rico FBI Special Agent Douglas Leff declaring a “crisis of violence” in a Puerto Rico radio interview, Washington has not granted Leff’s personnel and resources requests, in part because of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

So not only is the government shut down over the wall hurting U.S. residents, it’s also helping to enable a continuation of the gruesome violence and crime wave in Puerto Rico. With a rate of 20 murders per 100,000 residents, Puerto Rico’s murder rate is four times that of the U.S. Mainland. This needs to stop.

In a country so divided by political parties, the U.S. community should at least agree that the violence in Puerto Rico, a territory the U.S. governs with full jurisdiction, must not go unnoticed.”

We have a habit as Americans to ignore news that doesn’t directly affect us. That trend highlights the ignorance and unawareness of the issues that allow ceaseless violence to continue in a territory we have full jurisdiction over. There must be larger public pressure to not only end the government shutdown but to pay more attention to limiting violence in Puerto Rico.

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High crime rates and violence have a history in Puerto Rico. In 2018, 41 women were murdered. Celebrity and Latin trap singer Kevin Fret, the music genre’s first openly gay artist, was shot to death on Jan. 10. Nobody is immune to the violence in the country, as gunfire erupted in a tourist location near a hotel Jan. 6. Even Former Police Chief Michelle Fraley says she won’t leave her house after 6 p.m. because of crime and an officer shortage.

Puerto Ricans are Americans and should be treated as such when it comes to preventing violence and supplying resources and support.

There are “high levels of absenteeism” on the police force and a “shockingly low” 23 percent solved-crime rate, Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Jennifer González said, according to a CBS News report. The report also noted 10,000 police officers quit law enforcement in the past 10 years. This is a major problem, and the U.S. needs to step up and provide support and personnel.

Without the proper resources and aid in personnel from the United States, Puerto Rican violence linked to gang activity, shootings, and human and drug trafficking will continue to prosper.

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