Current Situation: Youth Violence in West Palm Beach
In West Palm Beach, law enforcement reported a total of 6,553 crimes in 2016 and 6,181 in 2017 (See Appendix - Chart 1). It is worth celebrating that crime is slightly decreasing in West Palm Beach and that the crime rate is small relative to other United States cities. However, crime, especially violent crimes, remains a major area of concern in West Palm Beach, especially as young African American males in the community are disproportionately impacted by violence.
From 2015 to 2017, 1,637 young African American males were arrested with 55% felony offenses and 45% misdemeanor offenses. So far in 2018, 195 young African American males have been arrested with an almost equal number of felony and misdemeanor offenses. Additionally, of the 178 African American males from West Palm Beach with release dates in 2016 and 2017, 19% were African American males 25 years old and younger. These young African American males committed offenses such as robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, drug possession, extortion, carjacking, grand theft, and weapons possession.
The impact of violence is not evenly distributed among West Palm Beach communities as well. The West Palm Beach Police Department’s Homicide Heat Map and Shooting Heat Map, which plots the victims of homicide and shootings, show that the majority of offenses occur in the North End of the city (See Figure 1 and Figure 2). This .73 square mile radius includes sections of zip codes 33407 and 33401, or the neighborhoods of the Historic Northwest, Coleman Park and Pleasant City (See Figure 3). With a total population of around 6,400 these urban neighborhoods in the North End of West Palm Beach are predominately African American. Those 24 years old and younger make up 32% of the total population in the Historic Northwest, 42% in Coleman Park and 27% in Pleasant City.
Analyzing two prevalent types of violent crimes, shootings and homicide, African American males were most often the victims of violent crimes. From 2012 to 2017, the West Palm Beach Police Department reported a total of 272 victims of shootings and 114 victims of homicides. 77% of shooting victims and 62% of homicide victims were African American males. Even more alarming is that 50% of shooting victims and 32% of homicide victims were young African American males 25 years old and younger (See Appendix - Chart 2).
Youth violence results from multiple individual, family and environmental factors that can accumulate over a child’s development. These risk factors - or the things that make it more likely that people will experience violence - can occur at an individual or interpersonal level, such as among family or friends. Additionally, many risk factors exist because of social and economic disparities in these communities with high rates of poverty, unemployment, and racial inequality (See Figure 4). No one factor alone leads to the development of youth violence. Therefore, the solution requires a comprehensive approach that simultaneously targets multiple risk factors, secures protective factors, or the things that make it less likely that people will experience violence, and engages the entire community.
Left: Overall City of West Palm Beach, Right: Focus on The Historic Northwest, Coleman Park and Pleasant City