Reducing juvenile crime in Wellington, reducing traffic accidents and improving equestrian safety were among the primary goals outlined by Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office District 8 Capt. Jay Hart (above) in his 2015 overview presentation to the Wellington Village Council last week.
At the Sept. 23 meeting, Hart said his department had arrived at four goals and objectives that the deputies discussed and decided would be their priority for the coming fiscal year.
“The first would be crime prevention for juveniles,” he said, explaining that juveniles account for about 20 percent of all crime in Wellington.
As a result, PBSO officials came up with what they feel is a realistic plan to suppress juvenile crime.
“We can’t predict when little Johnnie is going to sneak out the window and go out and break into cars, so, what we’ve done in the past, and will continue to do, is assign a deputy to the juveniles on probation,” Hart said. “We know that these kids have already broken the law. We know they’ve already been arrested, and we’ve already been effective with this in the past. So, when they are on probation, and the judge gives them a curfew of 6 p.m., our deputy is knocking on their door at 6:15 p.m. If they’re not home, they go to jail.”
Hart said the PBSO has little control over the rest of the juvenile population, but at least they know the population that has been arrested previously.
“We’re going to watch, and we’re going to make sure that they adhere to the law,” he said. “Our goal is to actually reduce juvenile arrests by 5 percent by keeping an eye on them.”
Another top priority is traffic safety.
“We talk a lot about traffic here in Wellington,” Hart said. “We know that it is an issue. It’s an issue typically during the equestrian season when the population increases slightly.”
For the past six years, Wellington has typically seen about 2.2 crashes per 100 residents.
“Our goal is to keep it below 2.2 for fiscal year 2015,” Hart said. “To achieve that, we’re going to conduct more than 8,000 traffic stops. That’s approximately 657 traffic stops per month or 21 per day.”
Presently, about half of the traffic stops in Wellington result in warnings, and the other half end in tickets being issued.
“We feel we’re pretty fair about warning people and educating them,” Hart said. “That’s what traffic stops are all about, education, so we’ve been educating our residents quite frequently.”
Councilman Matt Willhite suggested that the PBSO identify specific locations or intersections where there have been issues, mentioning the junction of Stribling Way and Fairlane Farms Road as a case in point. Council members have discussed installing a traffic light there.
“We hear the numbers, we all agree we want to lower them, but tell me where we need to lower then potentially,” Willhite said. “If traffic instances at Stribling and Fairlane Farms are an issue, we need to budget that.”
Hart said he can go back and see how many accidents have actually happened at that intersection. “If there is an inordinate number of accidents at that intersection, we may look at a light to control that,” he said.
Hart added that because of the large amount of parking at shopping areas, many accidents happen when people are backing up, which contributes to the rate.
Hart has also set a goal to continue to reduce the property crime rate. Property crimes were down 4.2 percent during 2013.
“We’re tracking this year to be down again, which would make it the fifth year in a row that property crime has come down,” Hart said. “Thanks to the council, we have three detectives now and a detective sergeant. The goal is to track, detect and investigate property crimes completely, and to also have our deputies on the road track and actually investigate their own crimes, so not everything is being pushed over to the detectives.”
The goal is to keep property crimes below 1,000, which has been done for the last several years, and have 10 percent of burglaries cleared by detectives.
On the topic of equestrian safety, Hart said the most widespread crime in the equestrian community has been the theft of golf carts.
“That is a stolen vehicle, so that does contribute to our stolen vehicles, even though it’s a golf cart,” he said. “We’d like to educate them. We’d like to get into that community when they come down, and maybe pass out some fliers. Unfortunately, it’s a tough situation. Last year, our stolen golf carts did go down slightly, but we’d like to have actually zero stolen golf carts.”
Hart said that District 8 also plans some extra patrols in the community, and possibly a program whereby golf cart owners can put some identifying mark on their cart so that deputies can at least identify the cart after they’ve recovered it.