Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office District 17 Lt. Craig Turner gave his annual law enforcement update to the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council on Tuesday, Feb. 4, reporting that crime is down generally, with a few exceptions.
Turner said that four of his five deputies have been assigned to District 17 since he became commander.
“There has been no turnover, so there has been the ability to meet the residents and start making connections in the area,” he said. “One deputy has been on board for six or seven months now, so he’s the only change that I have had in the last two years.”
There were few crimes against people, with two in 2018 and three in 2019, with one robbery and two sexual assaults.
“The robbery was a resident of Belle Glade who was passing through,” Turner said. “Somebody committed a robbery against him, and when we started questioning and trying to get more information, he decided he didn’t want to do anything else and refused to prosecute.”
Both sexual assault victims also declined to prosecute.
“You had two sexual assaults that happened inside of Loxahatchee Groves,” he said. “Both of them, the suspect and the victim were known to each other and had a relationship. In one case, the female was underage and refused to prosecute.”
Burglaries were down significantly except for automobile burglaries. Burglaries to businesses were down from 12 in 2018 to six in 2019. Construction burglaries were down from seven in 2018 to four in 2019. Residential burglaries were down from 13 in 2018 to three in 2019.
“That’s a trend that we have seen throughout the western region and across the county,” he said.
Vehicle burglaries, however, were up from 14 in 2018 to 15 in 2019. Vandalism increased from five incidents in 2018 to seven in 2019.
“Vehicle burglaries continue to be an issue, but looking at the overall picture, you had 15 for the entire year,” Turner said. “In the grand scheme of things, a lot of the areas have been hit a lot harder than that.”
Stolen vehicles increased from 14 in 2018 to 23 in 2019, with six recovered in 2018 and 10 in 2019.
“One of the main reasons for that is you have a U-Haul business on Southern Blvd.,” he said. “Seven different times they reported that a truck was stolen. The next day, they appeared back on the property, and they didn’t want to do anything.”
Motor vehicle crashes were down from 117 in 2018 to 77 in 2019. Hit and runs were also down from 15 in 2018 to 12 in 2019.
“Motor vehicle crashes, this is an anomaly,” he said. “Countywide, crashes have gone up. I don’t know what to attribute it to. You could say it’s the speed limits… but you don’t see this anywhere else.”
District 17 deputies made 87 arrests and notices to appear in court in 2018 compared to 56 in 2019. They made 8,788 business and residential checks in 2018, and 9,099 in 2019.
Deputies made 1,904 traffic stops in 2018 and 2,272 in 2019, with 1,015 citations issued in 2018 and 1,809 in 2019.
“A lot of times, if it’s something that we can educate somebody on, we try to talk to them and explain what they’re doing, and give them a chance to not do it,” Turner said. “If it’s somebody who deserves a ticket, they get a ticket.”
He said the focus of enforcement has changed. In 2018, it was speeders on Okeechobee Blvd. In 2019, the focus was on the lettered roads.
“We really tried to get down to Collecting Canal where we have a lot of issues with speeding, B Road, Tangerine was just mentioned to me,” he said.
District 17 made several undercover operations over the past year, where they had minors attempt to buy liquor, with mixed results, he said.
“The A&G Market was one of the locations we tried to buy at,” Turner said. “Both times, the underage drinkers were denied. We did have another store a little farther north that actually sold alcohol to one of the kids, but the second time we did it, nothing was sold to minors.”
Councilwoman Laura Danowski asked Turner if deputies ever have had difficulty finding addresses or have been impeded by closed gates, and he said that they have.
“There’s certain roads that they’ve gone to where roads dead end into more than one property, and there’s confusion as to which one is which,” he said. “Most of the time that’s not an issue.”
Town Manager Jamie Titcomb said discussion has come up about enacting an ordinance requiring all residents to post an address.
“Our [Unified Land Development Committee] was talking about that very issue just the other day,” he said. “The pros and cons of whether we would make everybody put a standardized address on their property, and there’s a lot of debate on that.”