Sunday, May 14, 2017

“Why does Lake Worth have PBSO and not its own police department?”

We all have to remember there are a lot of new residents and businesses in the City and many of them don’t know how we got here. Now and then, after a well-publicized crime for example, the opportunists will claim crime is out of control suggesting if we had our own PD we would all be better off. Attempts to get PBSO out of the City are getting more and more feeble all the time but that wasn’t always the case. Let’s take a look back. . .

Below is a quote by former Lake Worth City Commissioner Suzanne Mulvehill in May 2011 in full retreat after the community rallied against her attempt to end the contract with PBSO:

“Fabulous. They’ve exceeded our expectations. The Sheriff has done a fantastic job and it’s unquestionable that we want them to stay.”

Just a few short years after PBSO took over to solve the terrible crime problem in the City of Lake Worth (see below) some still wanted to end the contract. Those reasons were politicalnot for the safety of the citizens and neighborhoods.

How bad was the crime problem in Lake Worth? Here’s an article by Marc Freeman (“Jury selection begins in Lake Worth gangland massacre case”) from July 2015 by the Sun Sentinel. Earlier that month Daphne Duret from The Palm Beach Post also took us back to when the gangs ruled Lake Worth (“Trial to begin this month in 2007 Lake Worth backyard murders”).

It was incidents such as this that brought PBSO into the City in 2008 to take on the gangs and the terrifying levels of crime at the time. Here is another look at those terrible days when gangs ruled the city (Sun-Sentinel article from April 2013) about the City prior to PBSO taking over:

Military-style assault weapons. A trail of bodies. Illegal drug trade. Street warfare. These were Palm Beach County’s darkest days of gang violence [emphasis added], and it all returned in a courtroom drama Thursday. 

Lake Worth’s crime rate improved drastically because of the work done by Ric Bradshaw and PBSO. But in 2011 there were some who wanted to reinstate the Lake Worth Police Department as a ‘cost saving’ measure. Susan Stanton, the former Lake Worth city manager, went so far as to commission the Willdan Study to end the contract. Here is what our Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell (re-elected in 2016) had to say as reported by Willie Howard at the Post in 2011:

     Commissioner Scott Maxwell, who voted against the study in January, said he will continue to support the sheriff’s contract because the sheriff’s District 14 office has helped reduce gangs and the crime rate in Lake Worth.
     “The PBSO is the best thing that’s happened to Lake Worth since sunshine,” Maxwell said. “I’m not going to take the sunshine away.”

Within the Willdan report there were clues the City’s effort at the time wasn’t the smartest of things to do:
“PBSO responded to the public’s demands for better law enforcement”.

The Willdan study noted “the high quality of service” provided by PBSO since taking over for the Lake Worth PD in 2008.

PBSO and then-Captain Silva (later succeeded by Cpt. Todd Baer), have had a stabilizing effect on our City and our ability to move forward as a community. And the PBSO critics will grudgingly admit that.

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
Edmund Burke 

PBSO has much support within the City while understanding this service comes with a cost. But with that cost comes a better quality of life and really provides the foundation upon which the City’s future success can occur. Negotiation regarding the cost of service in Lake Worth is possible. Remember, had we kept our own police force its budget would be increasing over time, with the same or less level of service as before.

When you read another blog and see those long lists of crime that are becoming less and less frequent (including those ever-popular “Beverage Violations”, “Burglaries” of unlocked vehicles, and the many addresses outside the municipal borders of the City) understand where this sentiment is coming from: It’s just the continuing effort since 2008 to undermine PBSO District 14 in the City. 

Remember this Anarchist protest back in 2014?
Sign at a protest in Lake Worth organized by the Anarchists from Everglades EarthFirst! (EEF).

There will always be the headline-grabbing incidents and senseless tragedies and those should not be minimized. But perspective, understanding the history, and a hard look at the facts must be done as well. Also know that the City of Greenacres has followed the lead of Lake Worth and has gone with PBSO. In the next few years don’t be surprised to hear more cities in Palm Beach County considering the same option.

Enjoy this 2011 video of Mulvehill and Stanton in full retreat after attempting to end the Sheriff’s contract. At the 6:20 mark Yours Truly asked two questions and Stanton avoided answering both of them. For good reason. Enjoy the video: