Visiting South Florida or considering moving to West Palm Beach, FL? One area of concern may be the crime rate. Once notorious for its high crime, West Palm Beach has come a long way with a crime rate that has dropped dramatically since a shocking peak in the mid-1990s. Now, West Palm Beach has dropped off the list of dangerous cities in Florida and most violent crime is condensed in a single region. Most people feel safe exploring West Palm Beach, even by night, with plenty of historic, safe places to live, work, and relax.
Here’s everything you need to know about West Palm Beach crime including the dangerous areas of West Palm Beach, safe neighborhoods, and how the city is combating crime.
Understanding the West Palm Beach Crime Rate
City crime rates make it easy to compare crime based on a per-capita basis. Crime rates are reported as the number of total crimes, property crimes, and violent crimes per 100,000 residents.
West Palm Beach crime rates are based on FBI Uniform Crime Statistics (2019). These crime rates include eight “index crimes” divided into property and violent crimes. Many offenses like drug possession, simple assault, and disorderly conduct are not included. Index crimes are designed to give you the best indication of your risk of crime because they are well researched and reported and pose the most risk.
In addition to the crime rate in West Palm Beach, another tool you can use to assess crime is a West Palm Beach crime map. You can use this crime map from Crime Stoppers of Palm Beach County or the community crime map from the police department to see all types of criminal offenses by neighborhood.
What Is the Crime Rate in West Palm Beach, FL?
The West Palm Beach crime rate is:
- 4,724 total crimes per 100,000 people
- 3,805 property crimes per 100,000 people
- 919 violent crimes per 100,000 people
There were 5,275 total index crimes in West Palm Beach in 2019 in a city with 111,700 people. You have a 1 in 21 chance of being the victim of crime in West Palm Beach, FL.
To put that into perspective, it helps to compare it to the national average crime rate:
- 2,580 total crimes per 100k people
- 2,362 property crimes per 100k people
- 382 violent crimes per 100k people
Many Florida cities are ranked among the most dangerous in the U.S. While two cities in Palm Beach County were ranked among the 100 most dangerous cities in the country – Lake Worth (30th) and Riviera Beach (31st) – West Palm Beach was not in the ranking. Other Florida cities on the list included Fort Myers (38), Daytona Beach (40), Homestead (45), Miami Beach (75), Sanford (97), and Lauderhill (99).
Property Crime in West Palm Beach
In 2019, there were 4,249 property crimes in West Palm Beach. This included:
- 3,290 larceny or theft
- 578 burglaries
- 381 car thefts
- 20 arsons
You have a 1 in 26 chance of being the victim of property crime in West Palm Beach.
Some types of property crime were on the rise in West Palm Beach in 2020, a trend attributed in part to the COVID pandemic. Between January and July, auto burglary jumped from 701 in 2019 to 786 in 2020. Car theft, however, fell from 257 to 225.
Violent Crime in West Palm Beach
In 2019, there were 1,026 violent crimes in St. Petersburg. This included:
- 568 aggravated assaults
- 354 robberies
- 77 rapes
- 27 homicides and non-negligent manslaughter
You have a 1 in 109 chance of being the victim of violent crime in West Palm Beach. The West Palm Beach murder rate is 24.2 murders per 100k people. That’s almost 5x the national average of 5 homicides per 100,000 people.
In 2020, the West Palm Beach Police Department reported that violent crimes were trending downward, although crime was up in other categories.
Year-to-date statistics between July 2018 and July 2020 found homicides were down from 20 to 8. While reports of rape decreased from 44 to 35 in 2019, they were up to 46 in 2020. However, police reported that almost all sex crimes in 2020 were domestic crimes in which assailants and victims knew each other.
Overall, violent crime in 2020 was down 29.4% compared to 2018. This includes a 24% drop in aggravated assault, a 41% drop in robbery, and a 60% decline in homicides. Injuries involving guns aside from homicides declined 66%.
Dangerous Areas of West Palm Beach
The best way to avoid crime in West Palm Beach is to carefully consider where you will live. Most West Palm Beach crime is concentrated in just a handful of areas, most of them around downtown.
Downtown West Palm Beach is generally safe if you remain aware of your surroundings, but it’s the source of a large share of crime in West Palm Beach. The police department has an Entertainment District Unit that acts as a deterrent to crime with uniformed officers who patrol Clematis Street and Rosemary Square, two areas of biggest concern.
In Rosemary Square (formerly CityPlace), an upscale shopping mall, common reasons for police response include shoplifting, larceny, disturbing the peace, and assault.
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Clematis Street is home to West Palm Beach’s nightlife which brings alcohol-related offenses, assault, and theft. The peak time for police responding to calls in the area is 2 am. Common police incidents involve disturbing the peace, “suspicious person,” drunk pedestrians, larceny, assault, and fights.
By far the most dangerous neighborhoods in West Palm Beach are in the Northwest, West Palm Beach’s poorest area which has been plagued by crime, drugs, and prostitution. This district includes neighborhoods like:
- Roosevelt Estates (pop: 2,000) with 2,780 violent crimes/100k residents, 265% above the West Palm Beach average.
- Palm Beach Lakes (pop: 3,500) with 2,560 violent crimes/100k residents, 236% over the city average.
- Southwest (pop: 2,400) with 219% more crime than the city average and 2,427 violent crimes/100k people
- Progressive Northwest (pop: 1,700) with violent crime 60% above the city average
- Lake Mangonia (pop: 1,800) with 57% more crime than West Palm Beach
- North Tamarind (pop: 2,000) with 56% more crime than the city
- Northwood (pop: 600) with 54% more crime than West Palm Beach
The Dunbar Village public housing complex in the North Tamarind neighborhood of the Northwest was the site of the most horrific crime in West Palm Beach in 2007. The terrifying offense shocked the community and garnered national outrage. The housing complex was razed two years later, and a senior housing complex was put in its place.
In 2019, Police Chief Frank Adderley walked the neighborhood with a reporter for the Palm Beach Post to discuss steps the police and residents are taking to address safety in the neighborhood. The police chief is a recognizable face in the neighborhood where he walks and engages with residents daily.
Safest Neighborhoods in West Palm Beach
Don’t be intimidated by the high West Palm Beach crime rate. Here are some of the safest places to live in West Palm Beach with something for everyone.
- El Cid. Home to about 5000 people, this district on Palm Beach is known for its beautiful and historic architecture, high home prices, and ideal location on the beach. Expect to pay more than $1 million to buy a home in El Cid. El Cid has 27% less crime than the national average.
- Flamingo Parks. This historic residential district is one of the most desirable safe neighborhoods in West Palm Beach. It’s home to colorful 1920s homes in sea green, light blue, and coral and right next to I-95. You can find homes starting in the $600s. The adjacent Sunshine Park, which isn’t officially part of Flamingo Parks, still blends into the neighborhood with its own 1920s homes on just five streets. Without the historic designation, homes here are more affordable.
- Prospect Park. This safe West Palm Beach neighborhood for families is an upscale golf course community with single-family homes. You’ll find a range of smaller and mid-sized homes to large estates with Intracoastal views, easy ocean access, and great amenities for families. There are also several upscale condo buildings in the neighborhood with multi-million-dollar homes.
- Southend or South of Southern (SoSo) is one of the safest areas of West Palm Beach and the most desirable. Home to many ranch homes built in the 1940s and 50s, you’ll be within walking distance of the Intracoastal and it’s home to Olive Elementary which makes it a top pick for families. Downtown West Palm Beach is just a 7-minute drive away.
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West Palm Beach Safety Tips
- Be aware of your surroundings while downtown at night. The Rosemary Square shopping mall is a common site for car break-ins and pickpockets. The nightlife on Clematis Street poses the risk of assault, robbery, and car break-ins.
- The dangerous area of West Palm Beach to avoid is the Northwest district where most violent crime occurs.
- Always try to park your car in a secure parking garage whenever possible.
- Reduce the risk of burglary by locking doors and windows at night and investing in good lighting for your front porch and backyard.
West Palm Beach Police Department
- Chief of Police: Frank Adderley
- Sworn officers: 285 (92 civilian personnel)
- Non-emergency number: (561) 822-1900
- Address: West Palm Beach Police Department, 600 Banyan Blvd, West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Founded in 1894, the West Palm Beach Police Department (WPBPD) has increased their use of technology and community policing to combat crime, particularly in the Northwest. This includes ShotSpotter equipment to determine where gunshots originated, moveable and fixed license plate readers, and cameras to monitor high-crime areas. Three-man tactical units called Ghost units are used to respond to violent crime. The city also authorized funding allowing police officers to rent vehicles for use in undercover surveillance as department-owned vehicles are quickly recognized.
However, Police Chief Frank Adderley has warned that low staff levels and wages below other municipalities makes it harder to address crime. It’s estimated that West Palm Beach needs 315 to 320 officers based on its geography and size, far above what it has now.
West Palm Beach Crime Rate FAQ
Is downtown West Palm Beach safe?
Downtown West Palm Beach is generally safe, although the entertainment district is a common site for robbery, car theft, assault, fights, and sexual assault, like most nightlife areas.
What are the bad areas of West Palm Beach, FL?
The Northwest is the most dangerous area of West Palm Beach. This district with many residential neighborhoods accounts for the vast majority of violent crime in West Palm Beach.
Is West Palm Beach a safe place to live?
While West Palm Beach has a high crime rate relative to the national average, it’s one of the safer cities in Florida. Most crime occurs in one large area of the city. Surrounding areas have low crime.
Does West Palm Beach sound like a dream come true? Once you’ve settled on a safe place to live in the city and you’re ready to make your move, call Meehan’s Family Moving at 561-904-6000 for your free moving estimate!