Arriving in Puerto Rico for the first time, it will take you about 10 minutes of driving to realize the cop cars all drive with their blue visibar lights on all the time. Gringos end up pulling over... In fact, I'm sure that Puerto Ricans automatically know that any car that pulls over in front a police car driving with its blue lights on, contains a gringo!
If you're driving and see a police car with its blue light swirling, don't panic, the police in Puerto Rico are required to have their lights lit whenever their car is in motion.
I could not find much on the Web, in English about it. One of the two resources I found stated that it was a requirement for Puerto Rico's cop cars to drive with the lights on. I was more interested in the 2nd source that seemed to consider it as odd as I do.
Law enforcement has some odd notions that take some getting used to. On Puerto Rico the police drive around all the time, day and night, with their emergency lights on. The theory is that they suppress crime because criminals see the police around. My thought is that this is a tactic to reduce police paperwork. It is a certainty that they'll never run up on a car burglar and make an arrest if they're running emergency lights all the time. Still, it's a bit unnerving to drive in traffic because the police just cruise up behind you flashing away.
Suppress crime because criminals see them coming and get worried? If that's the strategy, I would love to see the stats that say it works. I would think logic would suggest it helps the criminals see the cops coming from miles away... enough time to get the heck out of there or at least hide the evidence. The Puerto Rican murder stats I blogged about recently seem to agree!
My cousin David summed it up really nice upon his first visit. He said:
Oh look. There's a cop car driving with no lights on. We must really be in trouble!
If anyone out there knows why they do this, what the strategy is, and whether or not it's actually found to be effective for any reason, please let me know and I will update this entry.
A user commented on the Topix version of my article with some insights:
The Puerto Rico Police Chief Toledo was interviewed on San Juan's English-language radio station WOSO. Many listeners called in to tell him that it is unprofessional and does not make practical sense to always keep the police cars blue lights flashing. Toledo refused to listen to the station's listeners. He knew best...
He insisted that Puerto Rico is different and the public needs the lights on to let the public know that their police are always on the job. Also, it warns a criminal not to commit a crime. HELLO!!!
We wonder why Puerto Rico has a very high crime rate including murder. HELLO!!! Again...