At the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Oversight Hearing on Wednesday, June 11, before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Rep. Pierluisi asked FBI Director James Comey to consider some facts about violence and drug trafficking in Puerto Rico, the highest population U.S. territory:
Puerto Rico is home to fewer than four million American citizens. In 2009, there were about 900 homicides on the island. In 2010, there were nearly 1,000 homicides. And in 2011, there were over 1,130 homicides, an average of more than three a day, the most violent year in the territory’s history. In each year, our homicide rate was twice as high as any state.
Most murders in Puerto Rico are linked to the drug trade. Puerto Rico is within the U.S. customs zone and is used by organizations transporting narcotics from South America to the U.S. mainland.
Pierluisi expressed appreciation of efforts by the DHS and the FBI, pointing out that the murder rate for Puerto Rico is on track to be 40% lower than that of 2011. “Nevertheless,” he said, “Puerto Rico’s murder rate is still the highest in the country—averaging two homicides a day.”
“I came away discouraged,” said Pierluisi of his research into the resources being deployed in Puerto Rico. He went on to remind Comey, “The 2015 DOJ funding bill directs the Attorney General to assess the adequacy of current law enforcement personnel and resources assigned to Puerto Rico and to identify resources necessary to close enforcement gaps in future budget submissions.”
Pierluisi asked Comey about the FBI’s plans. “Would you comment on my narrative and tell me if the FBI will increase the number of agents it assigns to Puerto Rico, either on a temporary or enduring basis?”
“Your passion is justified,” Comey responded, sharing his personal experience with Puerto Rico. He said that he was unable to answer the question but asserted that the FBI reviews its resource allocations every six months. He concluded, “We’ve got some things going on right now that I can’t talk about.”
Read the full text of the remarks of Rep. Pierluisi.