New Public Safety Secretary will fight drug trafficking in Puerto Rico

New Public Safety Secretary will fight drug trafficking

Pedro Janer, former Inspector and Acting Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Caribbean operations says he wants to “take the streets back” from criminals

Tuesday, December 24, 2019 – 10:32 AM

By Alex Figueroa Cancel

Pedro Janer. (Ramón “Tonito” Zayas)

Pedro Janer, appointed as Public Safety (DSP, Spanish acronym) secretary, anticipated he will make changes to the agency seeking to be more effective in investigating criminal organizations responsible for what he called narcoterrorism.

“There is narcoterrorism (in Puerto Rico), yes there is. Not in its totality, because we haven´t seen bombs and things of that nature, but there are kidnappings among members of different drug trafficking criminal organizations,” Janer said in his first appearance before the media since governor Wanda Vázquez Garced appointed him as DSP secretary last Friday.

“Murders and carjackings … all those things that end in murder can be considered narcoterrorism. Narcodolars flow into the underground economy,” he added.

Based on his decades of experience as a federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent, Janer said one of his priorities will be to enhance the exchange and processing of intelligence information on criminals, particularly drug traffickers.

In this sense, he added he will seek to further strengthen the relationship with federal agencies and other countries’ authorities.

“We are going to take the streets of Puerto Rico back,” said Janer, who replaces Elmer Román, the new Secretary of State.

With this appointment, Janer returns to public service after retiring to become DEA´s Caribbean Operations Acting Special Agent in Charge, an agency where he worked for almost three decades.

Focus on intelligence

Janer stressed that he has “an operational philosophy. We are going to get these people (criminals) off the street, with all the powers that the law gives me … And I will follow it. We will evaluate, along with the Police Commissioner and colonels, and we will start to take action very early, very quickly.”

Reactivating the criminal intelligence collection system, whether with undercover officers or informants programs is among the goals of the new Safety secretary.

“I will surround myself with people who have the knowledge to give me accurate and effective advice,” he said.

“All the agencies under the umbrella are going to support each other. We have the Special Investigations Bureau, who are good investigators. We will assess the status of their investigations. If I notice that they haven’t reached the level they should have, we will raise that level,” Janer added.

He noted that he had experience in intelligence collection before joining the DEA since he served with 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina where he specialized in Military Intelligence and Logistics

“I know the intelligence cycle, I know where to look for support… There are going to be many changes. All the changes the governor allows me to do, according to my powers,” Janer said. “There are a lot of things that need to change. You have to take an aggressive attitude, not a passive one… We have to be proactive.”

Defending the Safety umbrella

Janer said he will fully evaluate the DSP to improve its effectiveness. The agency, created in 2017, was criticized for increasing bureaucracy in its seven agencies: Police, Firefighters, Special Investigations Bureau, Forensic Sciences, Medical Emergencies, Emergency Management and Disaster Management, and the 911 Emergency System.

Janer said he was not only an advocate of the DSP concept but was one of the first promoters to create this department when he was consulted in the mid-1990s.

In this regard, he indicated he will conduct an analysis to determine the changes the DSP needs, as well as in the bureaus, while he assured that “what is working” will remain. He will also evaluate which contracts are not necessary or those that were granted for political reasons.

“Everything will be evaluated. Depending on how I see the role of these people, the work they do, I will eliminate some of these contracts. I will adjust where I need to adjust. The goal is for the department to work effectively,” he said.

However, he refused to detail these changes since he said he first wants to verify that his impressions of the agency are correct.

He did admit he will continue with Román´s initiative to identify a building for the DSP that could house six of its bureaus. The police would remain at Hato Rey headquarters.

He stressed that all these bureaus need to be under the same structure because they are the ones to respond in case of a catastrophe, so they need to fine-tune that coordination “in times of peace and tranquility.”

After retiring from the DEA, Janer participated in the founding of a company that provides security management services to U.S. law enforcement and corporate security agencies.

On the other hand, he anticipated that he will seek the support of the Oversight Board and the Reform Office under the Federal Court to increase recruitment in the Police since he believes that recruiting between 100 and 120 officers per year is not enough.

When asked if a year will be enough to address all of these issues, Janer said he will set priorities to work “as much as possible with the resources I have,” but expressed hope that Vázquez would win the election and then he would continue in office.

“A year is not a long time, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Let us hope there will be four more,” said Janer.

“If the governor wins the election, I am confident that I will continue to work with her for the people of Puerto Rico, under her administration. If it is someone else, then we will be available to follow up on the goals set out to make things better. I will be available and willing, as I am now after the governor called me,” he said.

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