Representatives from local and federal law enforcement agencies will meet Tuesday to define how the task force reconfigured to address the carjacking epidemic on the island will operate.
It was Public Safety Secretary Elmer Román who used the term "epidemic" to describe the recent wave of carjackings in Puerto Rico, which left two people dead this year. Román will participate in the meeting along with Police Commissioner Henry Escalera, federal authorities representatives and PNP Senator Miguel Laureano, who filed a bill to amend the regulatory framework of transportation companies recently targeted by carjackers, like Uber drivers.
Last August 21, La Fortaleza announced the creation of a “new task force” to deal with carjackings which total 404 this year, with 173 solved, according to the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Although this task force was created years ago, the new version includes municipal police officers from Bayamón, Carolina, Caguas and San Juan.
State police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were already part of the task force.
U.S. District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Lymarie Llovet said the task force will work along with the Trigger Puller initiative, another joint federal-state project that fights drug trafficking.
"These two initiatives will work together, share intelligence and develop joint operational plans," Llovet said.
Yesterday federal authorities announced that a Grand Jury had authorized criminal charges against Randy Rivera Nevárez and Domingo Emanuel Bruno Cotto, allegedly responsible for a carjacking and sexual assault on August 25 in Dorado.
In fact, the DPS revealed to El Nuevo Día that Rivera Nevárez, a 20-year-old Bayamón resident, admitted his participation in three carjackings in San Juan, three in Vega Baja, the theft of three vehicles in Bayamón and robberies in Vega Baja, Bayamón and Levittown, totaling 14 crimes.
"This is a very particular case and, at the same time, an example of what criminal activity without respect for the life and property of others means," Román said.
It was reported that two women were arrested at the Bayamón Command when they arrived on a stolen car on August 24 in San Juan -while Rivera Nevárez was being arrested at the scene-.
One of the women in the vehicle was Rivera Nevárez's wife.
“Sadly, the woman arrested was with a one-year-old girl in the car and the Department of Family Affairs had to take care of the girl for her protection. There was another woman, with two children, who were also handed over to their grandmother for protection,” Román said.
On the other hand, Senator Laureanotold El Nuevo Día that on Friday and as chairman of the Senate’s Commission on Innovation, Telecommunications, Urban Planning and Infrastructure, he will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 1346, which orders, among other things, bans cash payments to transportation companies –like Uber- drivers.
Laureano will meet with Uber representatives on Tuesday afternoon.
"I’m going to listen to them, but they are going to the public hearing on Friday," he said. The DPS and the Department of Transportation will also attend this hearing.
“Román announced that he is going to present several amendments and wants to promote other issues on ‘carjackings’ and Uber. We want to eliminate the use of cash, but Román wants to discuss other aspects,” Laureano said.
At that hearing on Friday, Daniel Montecasino, an Uber driver who was the victim of a carjacking while working in the Ingenio neighborhood of Toa Baja on August 23, will also testify. Montecasino blamed Uber and the initiative to accept cash for the incident.
"Most of the Uber drivers who have come to my office requested for cash to be eliminated," Laureano said.
Although Uber has been reluctant to respond to El Nuevo Día’s requests for information about its protocols, the company´s spokespersons assured they collaborate with authorities in investigations into crimes affecting their drivers.