PBSO: Thefts And Traffic Accidents Up In Lox Groves

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council heard its annual report for fiscal year 2022 from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, March 21, led by Capt. Craig Turner, commander of PBSO District 17.

Turner noted that there are five deputies covering Loxahatchee Groves. One is due to be promoted to sergeant, so there will be a replacement later this year.

There were 2,395 calls for service in fiscal year 2022, as well as 9,973 PBSO-initiated stops. The larger number includes traffic stops and business or residence checks.

“The self-initiated calls are the majority — about 80 percent — of what we do, going around checking on houses, checking on businesses and conducting traffic stops,” Turner said.

He added that while the percentages haven’t changed, the number of calls have. They are up more than 1,000 over fiscal year 2021.

Person crimes remain rare in Loxahatchee Groves with a total of two reported robberies and one sexual assault in fiscal year 2022. Burglaries included two business burglaries, two construction burglaries, five residential burglaries and eight vehicle burglaries.

The residential burglaries were all items stolen from the yard, not inside the house, and the vehicle burglaries were all either doors that were left unlocked or broken windows to get items left in plain view.

“People go around, and they are just pulling on door handles all day,” Turner said. “As soon as they find a vehicle that is unlocked, they will try to rifle through it really quick.”

There were 16 stolen vehicles over the course of the year, down one from the 17 in fiscal year 2021. These included a number of farm vehicles that were stolen.

“We do have a task force on this issue. When multiple items are stolen from the county during the same time period, those cases are turned over to the task force,” Turner said. “They have a little more ability to go outside this area and do investigations.”

Thefts, however, are way up, rising from 14 reported in fiscal year 2021 to 33 last year.

“Thefts and vandalisms are spiking throughout the county right now,” Turner said. “You have a lot of people going through and breaking mailboxes and going through and vandalizing parks.”

Turner said it is mostly juveniles doing this, but it does not appear to be gang related.

Vice Mayor Laura Danowski asked if Turner has had any reports of kids on bicycles harassing residents.

“I have not had anyone come forward to me that I know of,” he said. “If you have any specific issues like that, please let us know. I have a street team that can go sit in the plazas in unmarked cars.”

Motor vehicle crashes were up slightly, from 106 in fiscal year 2021 to 116 last year. There were 11 listed as hit-and-runs. “That is something that continues to climb,” Turner said. “The last couple of years in a row, we have gone up every year in our accidents.”

He added that is an issue all over the county, which Turner attributed to people using their cellular phones while they drive.

“Every three cars I pass, someone is staring at their phone,” he said. “It is a huge issue that I don’t think the states were ready to handle when mobile devices became as mobile as they are.”

As expected, the accidents are mostly clustered at intersections and plazas on Okeechobee and Southern boulevards. There were 1,339 traffic stops that led to 422 citations in fiscal year 2022.

Danowski asked if more stop signs on Okeechobee Blvd. would help slow traffic. Turner said that it would.

There were 14 arrests for person crimes, nine for property crimes and 41 for other miscellaneous crimes, including 11 drunk drivers and 12 people arrested while being served warrants.

Broken down by high-profile locations, there were 15 calls for service at the Palm Beach State College campus and 276 at the nearby Publix plaza.

As far as community service in the town, the PBSO took part in a number of local events, including the Chili Cookoff, the Fourth of July Parade, the Poker Run and the Veterans Day Parade.

Turner was given kudos for his department’s help at the recent cleanup along Okeechobee Blvd. organized by the Loxahatchee Groves Landowners’ Association.

“If you guys need a deputy for an event, we will always provide it,” he said.