P.R. Police Arrest 1,069 in Major Anti-Drug Operation


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Police have arrested more than 1,000 people in an ongoing major anti-drug operation to dismantle distribution points throughout the island, officials said Thursday.

Officers have seized 40 firearms and more than $27,000 in cash along with large amounts of marijuana, heroin, cocaine and crack during the operation, which began Tuesday and ends Sunday, Superintendent Victor Rivera Gonzalez said.

Police also said they confiscated about 95 vehicles, including 41 stolen vehicles.

Of the 1,069 arrested as of Thursday afternoon, most will be charged with minor offenses such as drug-selling and possession.

However, 13 suspects detained were wanted for killings that took place in cities including east-coast Fajardo, west-coast Mayaguez and Aguadilla and the southern cities of Guayama and Salinas. The date range of when the murders took place was not available.

Among them was Luis Roche, 34, who has been charged in a triple homicide in south-coast Santa Isabel on Feb. 20, 2000, Rivera said.

Accumulated bail was $8.25 million, police said, but it was unclear how many of those detained posted bail or were released without charges being filed.

There have been 583 killings since January in the U.S. territory of 4 million, about two dozen more compared to the same period last year. The numbers reflect a slight increase in a crime wave that saw 774 killings in 2002. Police say about 80 percent of the killings are drug-related.

Police have stepped up anti-drug efforts, including nighttime patrols of high-crime areas with helicopters equipped with high-beam spotlights in an effort to combat drug-related violence and illegal drug sales.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has named Puerto Rico as a major drug-trafficking port in the Caribbean, and estimate 30 percent of South American heroin and cocaine bound for the mainland ends up staying on the island for local consumption.

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