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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Puerto Rico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez Announces Progress In Making Our Communities Safer Through Project Safe Neighborhoods

SAN JUAN, P.R. – One year ago, the Department of Justice announced the revitalization and enhancement of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which Attorney General Sessions has made the centerpiece of the Department’s violent crime reduction strategy. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

Throughout the past year, we have partnered with all levels of law enforcement, local organizations, and members of the community to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.

“Project Safe Neighborhoods is a proven program with demonstrated results,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “We know that the most effective strategy to reduce violent crime is based on sound policing policies that have proven effective over many years, which includes being targeted and responsive to community needs. I have empowered our United States Attorneys to focus enforcement efforts against the most violent criminals in their districts, and directed that they work together with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and community partners to develop tailored solutions to the unique violent crime problems they face. Each United States Attorney has prioritized the PSN program, and I am confident that it will continue to reduce crime, save lives, and restore safety to our communities.”  

“Project Safe Neighborhoods is a critical component of our crime reduction strategy; it enables the United States Attorney’s Office, together with our law enforcement partners, to target and prioritize criminal prosecutions of the most violent offenders in the most violent locations,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “Using the additional resources we have received from the Justice Department, we will strengthen our mission to increase safety and reduce violent crime in neighborhoods across our communities.”

As we celebrate the one-year anniversary of the revitalized PSN program, here are some of the highlights of our PSN actions over the past year:

Enforcement Actions

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has joined efforts with our fellow federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to take the lead in reducing gun violence, and specifically, murders. We have numerous initiatives in place to combat drug trafficking and violent crime on the island. The Illegal Firearms Initiative started in 2011, in response to a historical increase in the murder rate. Since then, we have indicted more than 2,570 violent offenders. In 2018, we have arrested 270 individuals under this initiative.

In 2016, after four consecutive years during which the murder rate decreased, Puerto Rico experienced a slight uptick in the murder rate. Therefore, we sensed a need to intensify violence reduction efforts, and to implement innovative strategies. The Trigger Puller Initiative is aimed at identifying, investigating, and prosecuting the most dangerous members of drug trafficking organizations under investigation by the Strike Forces. In 2018, we have arrested 97 individuals under this initiative.

Other initiatives that are part of the PSN efforts in the District of Puerto Rico include: Gang Intelligence Center; RICO Initiative; Carjacking Initiative; and Drug Strike Forces. These initiatives target violent crime, organized crime and drug trafficking. 

Community Partnerships

Since late 2015, USAO-PR’s Prevention and Reentry Team implements the Communities and Juveniles Program that includes prevention seminars and workshops for public middle school students and members of communities in areas impacted by high violent crime rates. The speakers at the workshops are usually special agents or police officers from agencies like the DEA, ICE, United States Probation Office, and the PRPD. The subjects and speakers are selected after interviewing the school’s administration and assessing the school’s needs. This year we have visited five schools and a residential reentry center, and five more schools will be visited by the end of this year. These outreach activities will continue to be coordinated throughout the year.

Improvements to Community Safety

  • The FBI’s official crime data for 2017 reflects that, after two consecutive, historic increases in violent crime, in the first year of the Trump Administration the nationwide violent crime rate began to decline. The nationwide violent crime rate decreased by approximately one percent in 2017, while the nationwide homicide rate decreased by nearly one and a half percent.
  • The preliminary information we have for 2018 gives us reason for optimism that our efforts are continuing to pay off. Public data from 60 major cities show that violent crime was down by nearly five percent in those cities in the first six months of 2018 compared to the same period a year ago.
  • In our district, we have had a steady decrease in the murder rate. As of the month of October, an average of 45 less murders have occurred in comparison to last year.

These enforcement actions and partnerships are part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Attorney General Jeff Sessions reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally based strategies to reduce violent crime. Learn more about Project Safe Neighborhoods.

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Topic(s): 
Community Outreach
Drug Trafficking
Firearms Offenses
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated October 23, 2018