Puerto Rico Police to control traffic after curfew in San Juan tourist zones
As tourists continue to wreak havoc in San Juan, Condado and Isla Verde, the Puerto Rico Police Department has vowed to address the problem, announcing at a press conference that officers will be blocking transit in the popular tourism districts after 11 p.m. Those who are not staying in the area, residents, or employees will be denied access.
Puerto Rico Police Commissioner Antonio López-Figueroa confirmed that more than 100 tickets were issued in Condado to people not wearing face masks this past weekend.
He added that at least two tourists are facing felony charges after being arrested in a raid in La Perla on Friday evening. These charges are over allegedly lying on their travel documents, which are a requirement for all visitors flying to Puerto Rico, both domestic and international.
“The Health Department pressed charges against several people, for informing that they were going to be in quarantine, and they didn’t comply. If they’re convicted, the felony has a fixed sentence of three years,” López said.
The government official also confirmed that police are working to address the safety concerns regarding the use of popular electric scooters, Skootel, after videos of tourists riding them on a major highway have gone viral.
“Per Law 22 [transit laws], it [the scooter] isn’t considered a motor vehicle, so they’re not supposed to be on public roads,” said López, adding that he is in talks with local senators to pass legislation to limit the use of scooters exclusively to bike lanes.
Lopez is also in direct communication with Skootel’s owners, who will be preventing public access to the scooter’s after 9 p.m. to have them off of the road by 10 p.m.
While the police and government officials continue to emphasize that Puerto Rico is an “island of law and order” and that the law will be enforced equally for everybody, there are growing concerns among residents that tourists are getting special treatment from law enforcement.
This comes after it was confirmed that no arrests were made when police arrived to handle a violent fight at the Sheraton Hotel in San Juan’s Convention Center District, but the same weekend multiple locals were arrested for arguably less serious offenses.
Police officials claimed that no arrests were made at the Sheraton because the hotel managers did not want to press charges. They added that as a result of the incident, the hotel guests involved were asked to leave, and they all complied with the request.
When asked if there was any worry that the tourists would do the same thing at another hotel or AirBnB because they hadn’t faced any legal consequences, the police emphasized that they had done as much as they could by breaking up the scene. They added that if nobody filed a formal complaint, they could not proceed with the cases.
“If there’s no plaintiff, I cannot continue with the case,” said the island’s Secretary of Public Security, Alexis Torres.
According to police, there have been multiple cases involving tourists in which no charges were filed or arrests were made because nobody filed a formal complaint. Officials did not specify the exact number of cases when this occurred but indicated that it was less than 10 cases.
PRHTA calls for action
Meanwhile, the Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Association has called on police to follow through with their promised security plan and to tackle the problem.
“After months of complaints, we finally see that they’re taking action to avoid the continuation of these unfortunate incidents provoked by some of the tourists that visit us,” the PRHTA’s President Joaquin Bolivar III said.
He added that the hotels that are PRHTA members “have done everything they can to tackle the problem on their own,” including reinforcing internal security components within the hotels, reporting the incidents with names to the Association’s security committee, communicating with law enforcement, and informing guests on current rules and protocols.
The PRHTA also recommended multiple strategies that they feel could be effective in addressing the problem. They called on hotels to file the police reports necessary to incriminate those who break the law on their premises.
They also asked police to “guarantee that visitors are not exempt from the law,” and collaborate with the Justice Department to make sure charges are filed when incidents occur and that those cases are processed.
“It’s imperative that the police are offered the necessary tools for them to intervene and carry out the due process of law against everyone who violates the rules during their stay on the island,” said Bolivar.
“We’re confident that the situation will go back to normal and we’re open to collaborate by any means necessary to guarantee law and order,” he said.