At least 50 new officers will join a 200-member unit covering an area from the island's international airport to the imposing 16th-century fort in Old San Juan, said Emilio Diaz Colon, the island's new police chief. Six detectives also will be assigned exclusively to that area, he said.
The officers will fan out on horseback, all-terrain-vehicles, bicycles and speedboats, Diaz said.
“Puerto Rico is known worldwide for being one of the most important tourist destinations in the Caribbean,” he said. “[Tourists] are our best spokespeople.”
The action is meant to reassure visitors who might be alarmed by reports of a rising homicide rate: 607 killings have been reported so far this year or 101 more compared to the same period last year. In 2010, the island of four million people recorded its second worst year for killings, with more than 955 deaths.
Most of the killings are drug-related and tourists are rarely targeted.
However, in mid-April, a 33-year-old visitor from New Jersey was killed in the parking lot of the swanky La Concha resort in San Juan in a case that police say involved drugs and prostitutes. Two men have been arrested.
Beachgoers along the island's north shore also can expect to see less garbage and more lifeguards, officials said.
Nearly 40 inmates will be assigned to clean up at least three beaches every weekend, or more if needed, said Corrections Secretary Carlos Molina. The island's Tourism Company also will dispatch crews to the most popular beaches to help clean up trash and hand out garbage bags, Executive Director Mario Gonzalez said.
Officials say they hope the changes will help boost the island's $3.5 billion tourism industry.
Nearly five million people visit Puerto Rico a year.