As carjackings spread throughout the island, the Police say they have implemented a security plan aimed at preventing these crimes and solving those already committed.
Since August, there were more than a dozen cases of “carjackings” reported on the island, five of which happended between last Wednesday night and early Thursday morning.
As of August 6, a total of 341 carjackings were reported on the island, four fewer than the same period last year. The most affected areas are Caguas and Bayamón, with an increase of 14 and 16 cases, respectively, but San Juan is the area with the highest number of cases totaling 109, 22 fewer than in 2018.
The Police did not provide the number of cases solved, as requested by El Nuevo Día.
This is a "crime of opportunity," said Bayamón Municipal Police Commissioner Angel Jiménez.
"A criminal notices that people are not aware of their surroundings, that they don´t look around, and that they leave cars unlocked and parked in dark areas," Jiménez told this newspaper.
Many of the most recent cases happened in San Juan, including the August 6 murder of Uber Eats driver Carlos Gilberto Ponce Fernández in Santurce. The police said that Carlos Rafael Rosario Morales admitted to committing the crime and the case will be handled in federal jurisdiction. Ponce Fernández became the third driver of the company victim of a carjacking in two days.
Juan Cáceres, chief of the San Juan police area, said a preventive patrol plan has been implemented in Santurce and Río Piedras.
"We are developing a plan for night hours, patrolling areas near gas stations, near ATMs and fast-food restaurants where people don’t take the proper precautions or withdraw money," said Cáceres.
A few hours after the murder of Ponce Fernández, on Tuesday at 11:25 p.m. in front of a Burger King on Roberto H. Todd Avenue in Santurce, three minors were arrested in Hato Rey on a Toyota Corolla stolen from an Uber driver. They are from the Monacillos area.
"The information we have is that they are suspected of allegedly committing other robberies," Cáceres said.
The Municipality of San Juan did not answer a request for information on how the police are addressing this problem.
José Juan García, director of the Caguas police area, which also includes Juncos, Gurabo, San Lorenzo and Aguas Buenas, said the problem is being addressed with a prevention group associated with the Caguas Command, combined with information gathered by the Criminal Investigation Corps and the Robbery Division.
"Carjackings are a priority, particularly in PR-1 and PR-30 between Gurabo and Juncos, although there are very few in the Caguas urban area," he said. "There are many cases in which people are being watched since they get on the car."
García acknowledged the reported increase in statistics but stressed how the gang of Edwin Omar Gómez Caraballo, aka Cásper, the alleged leader of a group that committed at least 40 carjackings and several murders in the area of Las Piedras, Humacao Juncos and Cayey could be dismantled last year. Among these crimes was the death of an employee of a tripleta business and a man killed during the carjacking of a Toyota Tacoma.
García also recalled the efforts he led to dismantling another carjacking gang from the Canta Gallo neighborhood in Juncos. In fact, at the time of the operation which resulted in these arrests, they seized four vehicles result of armed robberies.
Luis Miranda, the former state police officer and security advisor to Caguas Mayor William Miranda Torres, explained that the municipality’s efforts focus on prevention, particularly in shopping malls and furthering efforts at night. He assured that there is good communication with the Caguas Criminal Investigation Corps and they share intelligence.
"Carjacking is like murder, which is difficult to prevent. They are hunting the victim and looking for the most suitable moment or the most confused person. Criminals also make sure that they don´t end up arrested,” he said.
As of August 6, the municipality of Bayamón reported a total of 42 carjackings, just like the same period last year. The Bayamón Sur district, which includes the Caná, Bella Vista, Santa Juanita, Ireland Heights, and Lomas Verdes urbanizations tops the list.
"This crime occurs mostly in busy avenues, but we work with these cases as we work with stolen vehicles," he said, noting that the Police share with the force he leads maps that clearly show where the crimes are committed, what is known as "mapping."