Tuesday, October 30, 2018

West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach and Delray Beach account for nearly half of all homicides this year in PBC.

See those numbers below, information from The Palm Beach Post’s “Homicide Tracker” database.

And note that West Palm Beach in 2017 recorded the most homicides of any municipality in Palm Beach County (PBC) since 2009 according to Post database.

And two oft-posed questions on this blog.

What happened in WPB that caused the homicide rate to fall so dramatically from ten homicides back in 2016 and then spike up to twenty-eight in 2017? Shouldn’t that be the focus of an enterprising reporter or editor(s) at the Post?

And this year West Palm Beach is on pace to record more homicides than last year.

It’s time for another editorial in The Palm Beach Post this year:

“Nervous — make that terrified — residents need to see that the police department can be relied upon to keep their neighborhoods from feeling like war zones.”

Editor(s), Sunday, Nov. 12th, 2017, “Unacceptable rise in WPB homicides requires quicker action”.

In 2017 there were one hundred and two (102) homicides in PBC. Thus far in 2018 that sad number stands at eighty-five.

For all of 2017 to the present in 2018 there have been fifty-one homicides in WPB. By race:
  • Black: 38
  • White: 10
  • Hispanic: 3

In 2018 up to October 30th (today), according to the Post’s Homicide Tracker database, the numbers of murders by municipality:
  • West Palm Beach: 23
  • Riviera Beach: 10
  • Delray Beach: 7
  • Lake Worth, Palm Beach Gardens: 3
  • Belle Glade, Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Lake Park, Pahokee, Royal Palm Beach: 2
  • Highland Beach, South Bay, unknown: 1

In unincorporated PBC (not within municipal borders) the number of murders is twenty-four.

Just as the year ended in 2017 this was the headline in the Post:

West Palm’s 27 homicides led way as killings rose in county during 2017

The opening three paragraphs datelined New Year’s Eve, December 31st, 2017:

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 [revised to 28] 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 scroll back up and read the headline published in the Post 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.

“. . . [K]illings rose in county during 2017”

Yes. The homicide rate did increase in 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 from 2017:
  • Total number of homicides reported in all 13 cities that have their own police departments: 63.
  • Homicides in West Palm Beach: 28.
  • 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? Seventeen (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 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: 28
  • 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 (one homicide this year)
  • Hypoluxo
  • Juno Beach
  • Jupiter Inlet Colony
  • Manalapan
  • North Palm Beach
  • Ocean Ridge
  • Palm Beach
  • South Palm Beach
  • Westlake
Note that “Loxahatchee” is listed as a city in the database but that’s an area in unincorporated PBC patrolled by PBSO. Loxahatchee is not a municipality. Yet. The nearby city is called Loxahatchee Groves.

And lastly. . .

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.