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Agent Douglas Leff (GFR Media)
Agent Douglas Leff (GFR Media)

Violent incidents in public places, and in broad daylight, have reached a point that the FBI considers there is a security crisis in Puerto Rico 

“When a citizen cannot walk the neighborhood without fearing a bullet, there is a security crisis,” said FBI Special agent in charge Douglas Leff.

His expressions contrasts with those of local officials who claim that statistics show that crime rate fell compared to the previous year.

Actually, on Tuesday, during a meeting with the FBI, Secretary of Public Safety Héctor Pesquera noted that it was incorrect to say that there is a security crisis on the island and yesterday, after Leff´s expressions he repeated the message.

However, governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares announced measures regarding efforts to fight crime. Yesterday, he signed an interagency agreement memo and ordered a special coordination in Caguas after threats issued on social media by alleged gangsters as part of a gangs war. Today, the Governor will meet with federal officials.

Leff confirmed he will attend the meeting as the FBI is also working to fight crime.

Violent incidents in the last days included murders in shootings in public places full of citizens, in the morning or in the afternoon. 

"A crisis is difficult to define. Nobody doubts that there is a crisis when you describe these situations," said Leff. 

He indicated that there no disagreement with Pesquera regarding describing the situation as a crisis since “it is a subjective term” and their points of view are related to the different roles of the agencies.

“For the FBI, this is a crisis,” said Leff.

He also explained that the FBI works in all U.S. jurisdictions and that, Puerto Rico has a high violence rate, similar to that of South America. He also noted that only Chicago urban area shows the same rate.

El Nuevo Día requested a reaction from Pesquera but, by press time, there was no answer.

Leff explained that according to the FBI intelligence group, gangs, that are not large ones, are out and about killing people in broad daylight.

When asked if he would say the Puerto Rico is a narco-state he answered that the FBI does not classify Puerto Rico as they classify México and South America.

However, he noted that there are violent situations to face and added that these incidents raise fear among citizens. He said that it´a priority to avoid what happens in other countries. 

He described as an “obstacle” that the fiscal crisis in Puerto Rico ended up limiting resources in the Police. However, the acknowledged that federal law and order agencies in Puerto Rico also need personnel, something he brought before Acting US Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez, last month.

Leff said he asked for more agents and resources from the mainland, among them, tools to track crime patterns. 

While waiting for long-term measures, he showed himself confident that his request would not be affected by the partial government shutdown.

Although he admitted that it´s not sufficient right now and that a committee in his office is evaluating urgent deficiencies while the mainland sends more agents, he said that investigations have not been affected and that they are working with the Police and the Prosecutor on adopting laws with severe penalties for cases that affect interstate trade, carjackings, car-to-car shootings and organized crime.

Leff added that the shutdown will not affect those arrests related to raids announced by Rodríguez for the first months of the year. He also remarked that the FBI is working to curb drug trafficking as well as illegal weapons traffick in Puerto Rico. Last month, the U.S Attorney office announced the creation of a new division to work exclusively on those cases.