Homicide in Puerto Rico

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Sheila M. Kiger

SOC-291

Sept. 2011

Homicide in Puerto Rico

Table of Contents

Abstract 3

History 4

Comparison of violent crime in Puerto Rico and the mainland 5

Comparison of Homicide Rates Between Puerto Rico and the Mainland 6

Figure 1 7

Lethality of Aggravated Assault in Puerto Rico and the Mainland 7

Possible Causes for High Lethality of Aggravated Assault in Puerto Rico 8 Gangs 10 Sudden murder rise in 2011 11 Conclusion 11 References 12

Abstract

The specific aims of this paper are to (a) compare rates and trends of homicide between Puerto Rico and the mainland during 1980-2005 and (b) explore possible reasons for differences in homicide rates and trends between Puerto Rico and the mainland.

History

Puerto Rico is one of the jurisdictions of the United States with the highest levels of violent crime. Although it is an autonomous territory, Puerto Rico is under the direct jurisdiction of the federal government. The island has legal and political institutions and practices that are very similar to those on the mainland. This is no coincidence, as many of them were either imposed by the United States or copied later by the Puerto Rican elite.

A recent U.S. Department of Justice report found that police are arresting suspects for only 43 percent of the island's homicides, making it the only U.S. jurisdiction where fewer than half of all homicides lead to an arrest. The island's rate of homicide arrests has plummeted since hitting 60 percent in the late '80s and early '90s.The U.S. national average is 66 percent, according to the federal report on the island's police force, which accuses authorities of illegal killings, corruption and widespread civil rights violations(Unsolved murder mysteries 2011).

An empirical assessment of Puerto Rico’s rate of violent crime deserves scrutiny for at least two reasons. First, owing to the paucity of primary data on violent crime in Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico gets excluded from analysis of violent crime in the United States (Gould, Weinberg, & Mustard, 2002; Mocan & Rees, 2005; PetersonKrivo, & Hagan, 2006; Wilson & Petersilia, 1995). As a result, we have a poor understanding of violent crime in one of the presumably deadliest places of the United States. Second, Puerto Rico provides an ideal laboratory to examine the possible link between (a) poverty and socioeconomic and political marginality and (b) violent crime. Puerto Rico was the poorest region of the United States during the 20th century (Lefort, 2000). Puerto Rico has a large and growing informal economy (Valdés, Caram, & Godoy, 2006). Partly in response to chronically high unemployment (Rivera-Batiz & Santiago, 1996) and persistent poverty, Puerto Rico has received commensurate federal transfers during the 20th century (Collins, Bosworth, & Soto-Class, 2006). Trías Monge (1999) calls Puerto Rico the world’s oldest colony because people in Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential or congressional elections. The combination of poverty, unemployment, political marginality, and drug trafficking during the 1980s (Montalvo-Barbot, 1997)...
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