Puerto Rico’s police chief resigns as crime soars

SAN JUAN, (Reuters) – Puerto Rico’s top police  official resigned today as the U.S. Caribbean territory  battles a crime wave with killings on pace to set a record this  year.
Police Superintendent Jose Figueroa Sancha, a 25-year FBI  veteran who took over the police department in January 2009,  said he stepped down because of health reasons but acknowledged  criticism over spiraling crime.
“Regardless of the criticism that may come from politically  motivated sectors, the development and future of the people of  Puerto Rico will be closely related to the work being done by  our police,” he said in statement.
Figueroa Sancha’s resignation comes as Puerto Rico saw its  deadliest month on record in June with 101 killings compared to  84 in June 1994, the second most violent on record, according  to police statistics. Twenty-nine people were killed in one  weekend alone.
Last year, 955 killings were reported, just short of the  island’s record of 995 in 1994. So far this year, 568 killings  have been recorded.
Much of the island’s violent crime is tied to the illegal  drug trade. Law enforcement authorities say Puerto Rico is a  favored trafficking route because of its status as a U.S.  commonwealth.
Once drugs reach the island, they can be smuggled to the  U.S. mainland aboard airplanes or ships without having to pass  through a U.S. customs checkpoint.
Authorities say they are bracing for an increase in  trafficking through the Caribbean after a crackdown on drug  routes through Mexico.
Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuno named retired Colonel  Jose Luis Rivera as interim police superintendent.

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