Wellington’s Public Safety Committee heard annual reports Wednesday, June 22 from Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Eli Shaivitz and Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue District Chief Phillip Olavarria.
SafeWise recently ranked Wellington as No. 8 in a list of the 50 safest communities in Florida, Shaivitz noted.
“What’s interesting,” he said, “I looked at the list, and several of those in the top seven were very small municipalities. Any municipality over 50,000 residents would have been us and Weston. But still, I think No. 8 is great.”
Index offenses are up 12.1 percent over the past year, he said, compared to 2020 data, which was lower largely due to the lockdowns associated with COVID-19, he explained. However, looking back to a few years, the numbers have remained steady. Retail theft had no significant increase or decrease. Person crimes went up, while property crimes and crashes have trended downward, when not accounting for 2020 data.
Traffic crashes, Shaivitz said, average about 100 a month.
“Our citations are up, our written warnings and verbal warnings are up,” he said. “Overall, our traffic stops and traffic initiatives are up.”
Compared to similar and neighboring communities, Wellington was next to last for robberies, in the lower half for vehicle burglaries, and next to last for residential burglaries. Unlocked vehicles, or vehicles with keys left in the car, is still an issue, he said.
The village’s new license plate reader, or LPR, system, Shaivitz explained, while costly, allows for real-time data and recorded data, which allows the PBSO to find suspect vehicles quickly. The data is part of a national database, which the PBSO has access to.
At the time of the meeting, Wellington had 26 cameras in operation.
“Vehicles can be tracked from Florida up to Maine with those cameras, they’re fantastic,” Committee Member Salvatore Van Casteren said. “Congratulations on these numbers. These numbers are exceptional when you look at them based on per capita.”
Going forward, Shaivitz said, the focus will be on maintaining the hometown police department culture, working with partners for disseminating crime prevention information, grow traffic enforcement to mitigate unsafe driving, working on grant opportunities for additional resources, and resuming active shooter training at the Mall at Wellington Green after a two-year hiatus.
Committee Chair Mohammad Junaid Akther asked Shaivitz about efforts in working with school police. “This year, we probably ramped it up a little bit more, although we do the training at the mall,” Shaivitz said. “It gives us the opportunity to do specialized training.”
One active shooter training they participated in, he added, included school police and other agencies.
“The goal is that, if we have to respond, there’s going to be multiple agencies coming,” Shaivitz said. “We want to be on the same sheet of music with the training.”
Olavarria shared a video about Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue that provided an overview about what PBCFR does, the values it embraces and the many special teams within the organization.
“Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue is more than the four stations that are here in the Village of Wellington, there’s actually access to a lot more,” he said.
Station 34 in Wellington specializes in hazardous materials. Air boats from Belle Glade are available when there’s flooding. There are also horse rescue services.
Response times, Olavarria said, have remained about the same at 6 minutes, 42 seconds, with 5 minutes, 9 seconds being the average travel time.
Medical issues represent the greatest number of calls with 1,130 medical calls in the last quarter. Vehicle accidents are the second most prevalent, with 102 over the last quarter.
There was one water-related incident and 37 reported fires. Reported fires can be anything from an actual fire to someone calling in that a neighbor has smoke coming out of their house. Sometimes that turns out to be from a smoker. From a garage fire to a room and contents fire, there were about five actual fires.
Wellington’s crews are working on rescue training aimed at rescuing residents and saving property as best as possible, Olavarria said.
Upon discussing fireworks safety, Olavarria suggested that the best thing to do is to let the professionals use the fireworks, noting that Wellington puts on an amazing Fourth of July fireworks show at Village Park.