Puerto Rico’s per capita murder rate is six times that of the U.S. as a whole, reports NPR. With violence escalating, many residents are considering joining the thousands of others who have already fled the island for brighter and safer opportunities. The island’s police superintendent, Hector Pesquera, says tackling the crime problem has been a challenge. Before he ran the police force, responsible for the entire island of more than 3.5 million people, Pesquera spent years leading the FBI bureau in Miami.
The picture wasn’t pretty when he returned to Puerto Rico. He came home to a fleet of police cars in despair, aging equipment, and officers arrested for corruption. Drug cartels, he says, were also moving their businesses to the island from Mexico. “Plus, unfortunately, we broke the all-time record for murders [in 2011],” he says. “We had 1,136, I believe.” It’s a record that Pesquera and his team are trying to combat. “We had 186, 187 less murders, so we’re slowly making a dent,” he says. Pesquera says political muscle is needed to make the case to Washington that solving the drug and crime problems here will help people on the mainland.