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Murder Rate and Fear Rise in Puerto Rico

Tuesday 21 June 2011, by Lizette Alvaraz

LOÍZA, P.R. — As people strolled past the Alambique liquor store here recently, the puddle of blood and the bullet-shattered storefront behind it scarcely merited a glance. Yet another young man had been shot. Yet another tally would be added to the record books.

For Roberto Clemente, who lives down the street from the crime scene, such casual acceptance illustrates just how deeply Puerto Ricans have been shaken by the island’s murder wave.

“Enough is enough,” said Mr. Clemente, 59, who works for the town doing cleanup duties, as he motioned toward the liquor store. “We live unsafely in our homes. The cops know who did what, but there are no witnesses. Even if you see who did it, you stay quiet.”

Now plagued by a steadily worsening murder rate, more Puerto Ricans are second-guessing their evening plans, contemplating moving to the mainland and sending away for gun permits in larger numbers to protect themselves. And the police are rolling out new strategies they hope will bring things under control.

So far this year, there have been 525 murders in Puerto Rico, a number that is outpacing last year’s 983 homicides, the second-highest ever, and the 995 in 1994. New York City, with a population a bit over twice that of Puerto Rico, reported 199 murders through the middle of this month, with a total of 536 in 2010.

High murder rates are not unusual in Puerto Rico. Between 1980 to 2005 the average annual homicide rate was 19 per 100,000 in Puerto Rico and 8 per 100,000 on the mainland.


Source: International Herald Tribune - The New York Times

Photo: Alex Barth (flickr)