Saturday, January 20, 2018

Headline in The Palm Beach Post:
“West Palm’s 27 homicides led way as
killings rose in county during 2017”.

Before we begin, take note:

There were 100 homicides in Palm Beach County in 2017; in 2016 there were 87 homicides in the County. In 2017 there were 27 homicides in West Palm Beach; in 2016 there were 10. Are those numbers significant? Continue reading and draw your own conclusions.

Here are the opening three paragraphs in the Post datelined New Year’s Eve, December 31st:

WEST PALM BEACH — As 2017 becomes history in a few hours, the year is guaranteed to rank among the deadliest in Palm Beach County in nearly a decade.
     According to an online Palm Beach Post database, 100 people were victims of homicides through Sunday afternoon. Official numbers from government agencies won’t be available until early 2018.
     Hardest hit was West Palm Beach, the scene of 27 murders this year including the slaying Thursday night of a woman and her 11-year-old daughter. No municipality has recorded as many homicides in a single year since the creation of The Post’s database in 2009. [emphasis added]

Now go back and read the headline in
the blog title once again.

Note that headline editors are tasked with creating headlines that accurately reflect and follow the lead of the article as written by the reporter(s), in this case Mike Stucka and Jorge Milian.
“. . . killings rose in county during 2017”
Yes. The homicide rate did increase in Palm Beach County (PBC) last year. However, here in the City of Lake Worth the homicide rate dropped from nine homicides in 2016 to seven in 2017 and for another example Belle Glade went from ten homicides in 2016 to three last year. In another case, tragically in Jupiter, that city went from two homicides between 2012–2016 to five homicides last year.

Losing a loved one senselessly by homicide is a tragedy for the entire family and community. And the reporters Stucka and Milian remind everyone that sadly, “In 2016, 87 people were slain in the county, the fewest since 2011.” The year 2011 was a bad one for many families and communities as well. In that year eighty-four people were murdered.

The headline for that article in the Post on New Year’s Eve was misleading and is very unfair to PBC, its thirty-nine (39) cities and the many residents living in unincorporated County areas as well such as in “suburban Lake Worth” which goes all the way out to the very edge of the Florida Everglades.

Because the question remains. . .

Where exactly did those homicides increase “in county during 2017”? Below are numbers that you may find surprising and won’t find in the Post article cited above unless you dug deeper into the Post’s database. Two important points:
  1. Homicides in all of unincorporated PBC and the 9 cities that have law enforcement provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff in 2017: 35.
  2. There are thirty (30) cities in PBC that have their own police department. But only thirteen (13) of those cities reported a homicide last year.
Expanding on these two points:
  • Total number of homicides reported in all 13 cities that have their own police departments: 63.
  • Homicides in West Palm Beach: 27.
  • Homicides in Riviera Beach: 12.
  • In Boynton Beach: 11.
  • Number of homicides in the other 10 cities in PBC that have their own police department? 13.

Number of homicides in all 9 cities that
have PBSO in 2017? 17.

So the last two numbers above, 13 and 17, are statistically similar but again that’s no consolation for anyone whose lost a loved one. However, it’s not hard to notice the one outlier in the bullet list above: West Palm Beach.

What happened that caused the homicide rate to fall so dramatically from ten homicides back in 2016 and then spike up to twenty-seven in 2017? Shouldn’t that be the focus of an enterprising reporter at The Palm Beach Post?

Now, more information from the Post’s database you might find interesting. Below is the list of all cities in PBC that reported a homicide(s) in 2017, number of homicides from highest to lowest (cities in boldface have PBSO):
  • Once again, West Palm Beach: 27
  • Riviera Beach: 12
  • Boynton Beach: 11
  • Lake Worth: 7
  • Jupiter: 5
  • Belle Glade and Delray Beach: 3
  • Greenacres and Mangonia Park: 2
  • Boca Raton, Lantana, Pahokee, Palm Springs, South Bay, and Wellington: 1
Note that the Post database begins in 2009. These cities have never reported a homicide since the start of that database:
  • Atlantis
  • Briny Breezes
  • Cloud Lake
  • Glen Ridge
  • Golf
  • Gulf Stream
  • Haverhill
  • Highland Beach
  • Hypoluxo
  • Juno Beach
  • Jupiter Inlet Colony
  • Manalapan
  • North Palm Beach
  • Ocean Ridge
  • Palm Beach
  • South Palm Beach
  • Westlake
Note that, for some reason, “Loxahatchee” is listed as a city in the database but that’s an area in unincorporated PBC, not a city. The nearby city is called Loxahatchee Groves.

And lastly. . .

In June 2017 after two homicides occurred within a short period in the City of Lake Worth there was much interest expressed at the City Commission about “gunshot detection technology” by Lake Worth Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell and Commissioner Omari Hardy:

A gunfire locator or gunshot detection system is a system that detects and conveys [in real time] the location of gunfire or other weapon fire using acoustic, optical, or potentially other types of sensors, as well as a combination of such sensors. . . . Systems used in urban settings integrate a geographic information system so the display includes a map and address location of each incident.

Which prompted an observation on
this blog last year:

Instead of looking at gun violence and shootings as a “Lake Worth problem” or a “West Palm Beach problem” could the solution be Lake Worth’s District 14 PBSO and the West Palm Beach Police Dept. working together and collaborating to acquire gunshot detection technology to help solve a regional problem here in Palm Beach County? . . . Or is the real problem, for some who’ve become accustomed to the status quo, is the thought of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth working together to help stop gun violence just completely unimaginable?

But since November 2017 no reporter at The Palm Beach Post has taken up this issue of new technology for law enforcement in PBC, reporting anything at all about gunshot detection technology for their readership.

But there’s always hope for 2018 and hopefully on New Year’s Day in 2019 we won’t have to read again that ‘killings rose in county during 2018’ like we did in 2017.