Members of the Houston Police Department already had their hands full in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey a few months ago, but the humanitarian crisis created by the impact of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has spurred some Houston police officers to travel to the island to assist in recovery efforts there.
Since November 2, a group of HPD officers has been rotating on the island every two weeks, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Houston Police Captain Patricia Cantu, part of the team in Puerto Rico right now, says the crisis on the island wasn’t what the team was expecting.
“The situation was a little bit worse than we thought,” she says. “With no power, no lights, they were having a lot of traffic accidents.”
Although the team didn’t come to Puerto Rico with the intention of directing traffic, Cantu says the officers are providing help where it’s needed most. She also says the department is pairing its efforts with those of other law enforcement departments across the country.
“Right now it’s a very historical event,” Cantu says. “This is the first time Houston has ever done this, [and] we’re not the only ones here. We also have [officers from] New Jersey, New York and Arizona.”
Cantu says one of the most pressing needs on the island is for basic necessities like bug spray, water, and ice. She says the officers have been incredibly overworked since they arrived two weeks ago.
“A lot of my guys are working 12-hour days. Here in Puerto Rico, they’ve been working 12 hour days since Irma,” she says. “You can only imagine. Some people have only seen their kids five times.”
She says Puerto Ricans are still coming to work, even though their own homes are devastated.
“It’s heartbreaking, but it’s also at the same time it’s inspiring,” she says. “They’re so strong.”
Written by Rachel Zein.