Puerto Rico’s police chief resigns as crime soars

SAN JUAN (Reuters) – Puerto Rico’s top police official resigned yesterday as the US 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 spiralling 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 favoured trafficking route because of its status as a US commonwealth.

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