Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Concern Growing about Criminal Climate in Puerto Rico

By on February 2, 2016

SAN JUAN – In recent times, Puerto Rico has seen the murder of at least three prosecutor: José Ismael Rivera, in Ponce (1983); Minors Advocate Antonio Barceló, in Guaynabo (2004), and more recently, Francelis Ortiz Pagán, in Río Grande (2016).
Ortiz Pagán’s murder, as she arrived from work to her home around midnight in the Guzmán Sector of the Río Grande municipality, has generated much concern about the atmosphere of insecurity on the island due to an increase in criminal activity.
“It is significant that just as the Puerto Rico Police and other related authorities exalt the decline in crime statistics in Puerto Rico, two crimes take place in that register what seems to be an increase in cruelty,” said Madeline Román, Ph.D, coordinator of the Research Institute on Violence and Complexity of the Sociology and Anthropology Department of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. “Putting aside the problem of the unreliability of local statistics, which has been historically denounced, I would stop [and look] at the phenomenon of cruelty.”

Besides Ortiz Pagán, Román was referring to the recent murder of 18-year-old Shakira Colón Sánchez, who was stabbed to death in the room she occupied at a hospital in the city of Mayagüez after having given birth a few days before. The scholar stressed that in both cases people suspected of committing the crimes do not have a criminal history, “and thus it is not possible to say tat these are ‘habitual’ criminals.”

“This is indicative that a deeper layer of complexity is upon us and on contemporary violence, which forces us to ponder the quota of responsibility we all have in the face of these crimes,” she said. “It’s a specter of violence that goes from that perpetrated against a state official, to that perpetrated against someone who comes from the sectors of most social precariousness. It’s the ubiquity of violence, violence all around.”

Four young men from the towns of Juncos, Las Piedras and San Lorenzo were accused of the murder of Ortiz Pagán, who according to authorities was shot to death in an attempted carjacking. The group of young men used to frequently go out “hunting” for cars they liked and hijacked in a violent manner from their owners. Authorities have linked the group to other offenses, including other carjackings in the Caguas, Cayey, Carolina and Juncos municipalities.

In the case of Colón Sánchez’s murder, authorities accused Carlos Laster Ramos, 34, a former nurse and security guard who confessed that he was addicted to Demerol, an opioid pain medication, and in desperation to acquire drugs he entered the hospital with a doctor’s gown an entered a room in search of drugs. There, he encountered Sánchez Colón and stabbed her.
At the beginning of this week, Police statistics reported some 48 murders, three more than those reported for the same period last year.

Curiously, maybe due to the public notoriety surrounding these two murders, authorities moved swiftly and arrested and accused the alleged authors of the crimes, which is unusual in the recent history.
Sociologist Emilio Pantojas, senior researcher and professor of sociology for the Center for Social Research of the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus, believes the phenomenon is “criminal violence. Still it reflects an element of resentment and anger against women.”

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