Twelve days into the new year and Puerto Rico already has 32 reported homicides, twice as much as last year during the same period. With scarce resources, lawlessness reigns in Puerto Rico and brings tension along with it.
Police complain they are owed overtime pay and staged a lockout. Diesel generators get stolen frequently, and most families remain living in fear without electricity.
“People are upset, and if they have any sort of weapon at hand, it’s not hard to see how conflicts can get out of hand when all those factors converge,” Monica Caudillo, a postdoctoral associate at Maryland Population Research Center, told NY Daily News.
“The police and people in government are focused right now on solving immediate needs that emerged with the hurricane so they are not as focused on watching crime rates or fulfilling typical duties, like public security, as they would under normal circumstances.”
Criminologists think criminals are encouraged by this sense of impunity, since, as Caudillo puts it, “they know they won’t be prosecuted because authorities are too busy.” Not everyone agrees Hurricane Maria is to blame for the crime spike.
“We have periods that are really high in criminal violence, and they always relate to other social and economic factors,” Gary Gutierrez, a criminal justice professor at Turabo University, told NY Daily News.
Gutierrez claims the spike in killings is part of a regular cycle of criminal violence linked to the drug trade. “There’s a war over the control for drugs,” Fernando Soler said.
Drug gangs are fighting their rivals over lost territory. They are taking advantage of all the situations occurring in Puerto Rico. Surprisingly, some Puerto Ricans claim they feel at ease.
Michael Vicens leaves his daughter’s bike unattended and his car unlocked. “So far, nothing has happened,” he claims.
This article was inspired by NY DAILY NEWS // Puerto Rico faces a surge in murders after Hurricane Maria