Addressing serious threats to public safety at its source is an approach that Governor Ricardo Rosselló has rightly embraced, given the irrefutable fact that law enforcement tools have proven to be insufficient, and even inefficient, as the only solution to fight crime.

A "helping hand", a concept that includes addressing inequality and prevention through education, at home and in entities that assist families, is a medium and long-term strategy. It is absolutely necessary to train citizens willing to engage in a culture of peace.

We agree with the Governor that creating a safer Puerto Rico is everybody´s challenge and that the long-lasting solution is to address the roots of the problem. Certainly, this entails promoting cultural changes, as well as other approaches to fight crime. It is hopeful that the current administration proposes to address it through these approaches.

The government recognizes studies that point to the importance of generating opportunities for socio-economic mobility. To that end, it is urgent to tear down mental and institutional barriers that perpetuate inequality.

For years, organizations that know firsthand the needs and challenges that our children and youth are facing, have developed effective models that save lives. These initiatives have also helped talented citizens who today contribute with their efforts to move the island forward.

These organizations are well aware of the plight of more than half of our children in their first years of life. For example, they fight against domestic violence and dysfunctional homes that cut so many lives short. At the meeting held this week, a man told how he ventured into drug trafficking at 11, as a way to escape from an alcoholic and abusive father who used to attack him and his mother. We celebrate his rehabilitation hoping to see that in many other cases.

Many of these children are also victims of institutional abuse. They live below the poverty line, besieged by a violent and stressing environment, which affects their academic performance. Many lack spaces or centers that allow their parents to look for a job. There are children in single-parental homes or under the care of their grandparents, who have their own needs.

Those who join crime also lack opportunities for rehabilitation once they are caught by authorities. The young man who told his story at the meeting explained how he learned new ways to commit crimes in a system that locks up and dehumanizes, far from taking its rehabilitation mission.

The unfortunate success of young people in the world of crime shows how many of them could have been successful entrepreneurs. But inaction and unwise strategies lead them to ruin their lives. 

We welcome Governor Rosselló´s approach, keeping in mind those immediate actions needed to provide safety and investigation authorities with resources to fight drug trafficking. Allocating resources to vital areas to ensure solving and prosecuting crimes is an essential component. We must address those problems that the Bureau of Forensic Sciences is facing and speed up the way to address child-abuse complaints.

Addressing public safety comprehensively also implies to plan the reconstruction in order to produce sustainable cities and communities that will enable  cultural and social integration.

The government  know that they are not alone in the monumental challenge of fighting crime. Implementing initiatives requires knowledge, generosity and collaboration and Puerto Rico has a rich knowledge of those areas, particularly in the non-profit sector. If we work together, we can recover lives and spaces for a safer and peaceful Puerto Rico.

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