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Drug-Related Crime

Drug-related violence is endemic in Puerto Rico. Homicide rates typically rank among the highest in the United States, and law enforcement officials report that most of these homicides are related to drug trafficking. DTOs use intimidation, violence, and murder to gain and retain control of drug distribution points in the HIDTA region.

Firearms legally and illegally transported into the PR/USVI HIDTA region from the CONUS, particularly Florida, are of significant concern to law enforcement officials in Puerto Rico, which is a principal destination for these firearms. For instance, in March 2008, 15 members of a criminal organization were indicted in Tampa, Florida, on 36 federal violations, including acquiring firearms illegally in Florida and illegally transporting the firearms to Puerto Rico. Members of this organization would purchase firearms from licensed dealers in Florida and, unbeknownst to these dealers, knowingly resell the weapons to convicted felons with ties to island-based DTOs. Law enforcement officials further report that these members knew that the weapons would be used to commit violent crimes related to drug trafficking.

Corruption among local law enforcement officers has been an ongoing problem throughout the PR/USVI HIDTA for many years; in 2007 federal authorities uncovered and addressed significant drug-related police corruption in the region. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents arrested several members of the Puerto Rico Police Narcotics and Vice Squad for conspiracy, intimidation, oppression, and threats against persons in the town of MayagŁez in August 2007. The officers had allegedly seized controlled substances, illegally retained a portion of the substance, and planted the substance on or near other individuals. The officers then provided false sworn testimony in support of search warrants and affidavits against those individuals, actions that resulted in unreasonable searches, seizures, unlawful detentions, and the arrests of innocent citizens. The arrest of these officers severely undermined the public's confidence in the police department's ability to protect them by deterring and combating crime.

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Abuse

Heroin and marijuana are the most widely abused illicit drugs in the PR/USVI HIDTA region; cocaine, pharmaceutical drugs, and ODDs such as MDMA are also commonly abused. Heroin is the primary drug identified in drug-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in Puerto Rico, accounting for 85 percent (1,251 of 1,478) of all admissions in the commonwealth in 2006 (the latest year for which such data are available). According to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS), more individuals were admitted for the treatment of heroin abuse in Puerto Rico from 2002 through 2006 than were admitted for the treatment of marijuana and cocaine abuse (smoked and by other routes of administration).6 (See Figure 2.) Additional data from the Puerto Rico Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration (ASSMCA in Spanish) indicate that the number of individuals treated for opioid addiction, mostly heroin addiction, at publicly funded facilities in Puerto Rico rose significantly from state fiscal year (SFY)7 2003 (7,687) to SFY 2006 (10,996) and then diminished slightly in SFY 2007 (9,886).8 Moreover, according to the Puerto Rico Institute of Forensic Sciences, the commingling of heroin with other drugs, such as alcohol, cocaine, or ODDs, was a leading cause of death among drug abusers in Puerto Rico in 2005 and 2006 (the latest year for which such data are available). Comparable data for the USVI are not available and constitute an intelligence gap.

Figure 2. Drug-Related Treatment Admissions to Publicly Funded Facilities in Puerto Rico, by Drug, 2002-2006

Chart showing the number of drug-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in Puerto Rico, by Drug, from 2002 to 2006.
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Source: Treatment Episode Date Set, as of April 11, 2008.


End Notes

6. According to the Puerto Rico Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration (ASSMCA in Spanish), the downward trend from 2003 to 2006 in the number of treatment admissions reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) is most likely the result of the privatization of many drug treatment centers in Puerto Rico (TEDS does not report data from such centers) and a change in ASSMCA collection methodology, which occurred in 2003.
7. The state fiscal year runs from July through June.
8. As of April 10, 2008, data from the Puerto Rico Mental Health and Anti-Addiction Services Administration were available only for opioid-related admissions. Additionally, the number of individuals treated for drug addiction at publicly funded facilities in Puerto Rico is typically much higher than the number of individuals admitted for treatment at those publicly funded facilities.


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