“The correlation between crime and personnel is not necessarily direct,” he said.
He added that he was struggling with budget cuts mandated by the fiscal control board created by Congress, which ordered a $25 million cut from his operational budget.
“No way I can do that,” Mr. Pesquera said. “No way.”
This week, Governor Rosselló announced that other agencies would provide administrative support so that police officers could leave their desks and hit the streets. Noting that the island’s rate of solved crimes was a dismal 23 percent, Puerto Rico’s representative in Congress, Jenniffer González-Colón, asked the departments of Justice and Homeland Security on Wednesday for additional resources.
Myra Rivera, founder of a victim advocacy organization called Alliance for Social Peace, said the police were stuck in old, failed crime-fighting formulas. Law enforcement officials trade get-tough strategies while Puerto Rico is closing hundreds of schools because of budget constraints and population declines, she said.
“No country can feel comfortable with 400, 500, 600 murders,” said Ms. Rivera, whose 19-year-old daughter was killed at a disco in 1997.
Ms. Rodríguez, the food truck operator who saw the young man gunned down nearby, said no one feels secure with so many police stations shuttered.
“I live in Loiza, and at night, if you go to the police station, you find it closed,” she said.
Rayze Ostolaza, 24, a copywriter who was carjacked in 2017, said the problem is particularly acute for women.
“I don’t feel safe in Puerto Rico,” she said. “I go out, see a dark street, and walk with my heart trembling and a knot in my heart. And now things don’t only happen at nighttime, now in broad daylight they happen, too.”