News: Citizen-soldiers assist local law enforcement agencies
Story by Sgt. Angel Martinez
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Citizen-soldiers and aviators are often called to serve in missions all over the world, and they do so gallantly, but when they are called to serve in their own backyard there is a bigger sense of pride; a bigger sense of ownership. The Puerto Rico National Guard had answered that call; a call to protect neighbors and communities.
The PRNG initiated “Operation Secure Front,” Jan. 15, in which citizen-soldiers and Aviators conduct surveillance missions in conjunction with the PR Police Department, PR Internal Revenue Service and other state and federal agencies around the island’s ports, airports and shorelines. The purpose is to decrease illegal drug and weapon trafficking into PR; activities that have been identified as the main cause for the rise of crime across the island.
“The governor was very clear; we have to stop the entrance of drugs because criminality has gone up gravely,” said the adjutant general of Puerto Rico, Col. Juan J. Medina-Lamela, retired.
“According to the United Nations, over 70 ton of cocaine channel through Puerto Rico and the Caribbean annually, approximately 10 per cent of the drug stays in Puerto Rico while the rest reaches the United States.”
Although quelling illegal weapons and drugs are the main purpose of the state mobilization, there are other directly related issues that need attention as well. Citizen-soldiers and airmen are also working alongside PR Internal Revenue Service inspectors by inspecting cargo shipped into the island. According to Brígido Lozano, inspector for the PR IRS, the number of inspected containers has tripled since the combined effort started.
“The help of the National Guard has been outstanding. We can distribute personnel better, and we can inspect more cargo in less time, leading to better audit findings,” said Lozano. “We are thankful they’re here and always willing to cooperate.”
As the combined effort to improve Puerto Rico’s security continues, the PRNG and the PRPD remain steady patrolling the island shores. They have also expanded that effort to airports as well, lending a hand to PR Ports Authority in the attempt to minimize the entrance of drugs and arms trafficking through this venue.
According to PRPD Capt. Rafael Romero, San Juan International Airport Precinct, everything has been running smoothly with the multi-agency teams patrolling the airport. He also said he is pleased with the cohesion among the agencies, and that nothing but good results can be expected to come from this endeavor.
This is the fifth time the PRNG has been mobilized to perform state security missions alongside the PRPD since 1992.