Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $143,935)
The main drivers of violent crime in Puerto Rico include drug trafficking, high poverty, cuts to the police force, burdened public education, chronic offenders who cycle quickly through an overwhelmed local justice system, and a deluge of illegal firearms from the continental United States that are subsequently converted into machineguns.
The proposed 2022 PSN project seeks to address these problems through a mixture of prevention and enforcement. A portion of PSN funds would be used to support the Police Athletic League, which works with children from 7 to 17 years old across the island. The goal is to strengthen ties between the police and communities, while providing Puerto Rico’s youth with extracurricular activities. Funds would also be provided to the Department of Sports and Recreation for equipment to launch an ESports league in collaboration with the North American Scholastic ESports Federation, with chapters in the United States, Canada and Mexico. ESports can be used to develop adolescents’ communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills.
In order to assist in the investigation and prosecution of organized gangs, a portion of PSN funds would be used for technology to identify stolen vehicles in the San Juan metropolitan area, as well as for improved analytical software and training for the police to detect shifting criminal structures throughout the island. Funds would also be invested in office equipment for the Organized Crime and Drug Division of the local Department of Justice, which prosecutes some of Puerto Rico’s most violent gangs.
The success of the above projects will be evaluated using, among other factors, the following: the number of students enrolled in the extracurricular activities; the number of stolen or otherwise “hot” vehicles identified; the number of criminal structures recognized through the analytical software.
These projects are based upon the strategy that community empowerment and effective law enforcement can be a powerful force against violence in Puerto Rico.