PBSO: Keep Homes And Vehicles Secured

Locking car and home doors can help fight an uptick in crime statistics in relatively safe Wellington, the village’s top cop told Wellington’s Public Safety Committee last week, while noting that enforcement of new rules for golf carts has focused more on education than tickets so far.

“The primary issues have been unchanged, I think, for years,” Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Nichole Addazio told the committee on Tuesday, Dec. 19. “That is, juvenile crimes and juvenile problems, property crime and traffic.”

Addazio has been on the job for eight months as leader of the PBSO’s District 8 in Wellington.

A big focus through the winter equestrian season will be traffic enforcement, particularly against reckless and dangerous driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Addazio said.

Rule changes effective since Oct. 1 are designed to enhance safety with golf carts on village roads and paths. The sheriff’s office has largely emphasized awareness and reminders in the early going, she said. Village residents seem to be understanding what the rules are there, she said.

Drivers under 18 must have a valid license or learner’s permit to operate a cart on roads or multi-modal pathways. Golf carts must yield to pedestrians, cyclists and horses on the paths by slowing, stopping or pulling off to the side as necessary, with no “bulldozing.” The speed limit for golf carts is 15 mph on paths and 25 mph on roads, according to a village summary.

Across Wellington, small stop signs have been placed in many places where paths intersect with roads, spots where inattentive cart drivers might put themselves and others in harm’s way.

In the big picture, Wellington remains a relatively safe place, but not one immune from problems, officials said. Comparing 2023 to the previous year at this time, “our crime stats are up across the board,” Addazio said.

That is the trend in the western communities generally, she said, though in many categories it may involve only a handful of cases.

“We are up in our stolen vehicles, we are up in our residential burglaries, we are up in our sexual assaults,” she said. “When I say up, again, we are talking two or three cases, so this could be one additional case.”

One continuing problem dogged by somewhat higher totals has been vehicle burglaries, though these can fluctuate quarter to quarter.

“A couple of weeks ago we had, I think, 17 vehicle burglaries,” she said. “All 17 vehicle burglaries were unlocked doors.”

One burglary involved a weapon stolen after it was left in a car.

“I implore the public to become involved in crime prevention,” Addazio said. “I see the culture here because it is such a safe place, and people feel safe, and we are safe overall, but they leave their cars unlocked.”

Few cases involve smash-and-grab forced entry, she said.

“These are often juveniles who have already been arrested for the same offenses and are re-offending, who are simply checking door handles when everybody’s in bed and not paying attention,” Addazio said.

Committee Member Mohammad Junaid Akther asked about what residents can do to guard against residential burglary attempts. He mentioned an incident in the Versailles neighborhood.

“A guy came in, he thought nobody was home, but the mother and two children were there,” he said.

While the incident did not result in violent harm, it was still alarming, as it had not been an issue on the family’s radar for many years, he said.

The discussion touched on issues such as that gated communities, for example, can lull people into a sense they do not need to pay as much attention to fundamental precautions. Still, that doesn’t guarantee that juveniles in the neighborhood, or perpetrators who gain entrance on seemingly legitimate business errands, will never try opportunistic crimes.

“It’s the same basic things we all need to do for crime prevention,” Addazio said. “That’s simply lock your doors. Keep your garage door closed. Lock your vehicles so people can’t get to your garage door opener to then break into your residence.”

Properly maintaining hedges and shrubbery, and thinking about whether exterior lighting is adequate, can also help lower the chances of an incident, she said.