By Rich Pollack

    The number of serious crimes — what little there was — declined 23 percent for six small coastal towns in 2013 and local law enforcement agencies are crediting a more vigilant population for much of the drop.
    In all, there were 135 serious crimes, including burglaries, robberies and thefts in the six small oceanfront communities of Highland Beach, Gulf Stream, Briny Breezes, Ocean Ridge, Manalapan and South Palm Beach, according to statistics compiled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Last year the same agencies reported 176 serious crimes.
    Highland Beach, Gulf Stream and Ocean Ridge all saw drops in reported crime, while South Palm Beach and Manalapan each reported only one more crime than the previous year.
    Overall, Boca Raton reported a 9.3 percent decrease in serious crimes while Delray Beach saw a 5 percent increase. Lantana saw a 7.8 percent increase in the number of crimes reported. Breakdowns of the number of reported crimes that occurred east of the Intracoastal Waterway for those communities were not available.
    In Highland Beach, the number of serious crimes fell 25 percent from 2012 to 2013 while Gulf Stream had a 37.5 percent drop in the number of serious crimes. In going from 10 crimes in 2012 to 11 in 2013, South Palm Beach saw a slight increase in the number of crimes reported, as did Manalapan with 25 crimes reported compared to 24 in 2012.
    In Ocean Ridge, which also polices Briny Breezes and includes crimes there in its statistics, the number of reported crimes dropped from 74 in 2012 to 51 in 2013.
    “Obviously, we’re very happy with the numbers,” said Ocean Ridge Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi. “It’s really a team effort involving our department and our residents.”
    Yannuzzi said his department is especially pleased with a 48 percent decrease in the number of reported burglaries, even at a time when staffing was down.
    “There were 25 burglaries reported in 2012 and just 13 reported last year,” he said.
    The number of larcenies in Ocean Ridge also dropped from 46 in 2012 to 28 last year. A significant number of those crimes, Yannuzzi said, took place at Oceanfront Park, owned and operated by the city of Boynton Beach but which is in Ocean Ridge so falls under the town’s jurisdiction.   
    Palm Beach County’s Ocean Inlet Park, south of the Boynton Beach Inlet, is policed by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, which has countywide jurisdiction.
    Burglaries also dropped significantly in Highland Beach, where 12 were reported in 2012 and only four were reported in 2013.
    Both Yannuzzi and Highland Beach Police Chief Craig Hartmann say increased awareness on the part of residents helped to minimize crime, especially burglaries.
    “We spent time getting the word out to our residents and letting them know they should call us if something doesn’t look right,” Hartmann said.
    He said the department works closely with residents, letting them know to notify the department when they’re away so the officers can keep an additional eye on the property.
    “Highland Beach has a reputation of being a safe town and we want to work with our residents to keep it that way,” he said.
    In Gulf Stream, Police Chief Garrett Ward says the department’s high visibility on State Road A1A and in other areas may serve as a deterrent to criminals.
    “Our focal point is high visibility patrols,” he said. “We use traffic enforcement as a crime prevention tool.”
    Ward said the department also works with residents to provide extra patrols when they are out of town.
Manlapan Police Chief Carmen Mattox says his department also provides extra patrols of homes when the residents are away. In addition, the department does regular checks of construction areas to make sure there are no unauthorized personnel on the site, especially after hours.
    Highland Beach, Gulf Stream and Ocean Ridge also offer residents free home-security checks to identify potential problems.
    Yannuzzi said his department also puts out a monthly newsletter that includes crime prevention tips and information about the latest crimes.
    “We’re constantly pushing crime prevention,” he said. “Our goal is to make Ocean Ridge more intimidating to criminals.

Crime Prevention Tips
• If you see something, say something. Don’t delay in calling police.
• Install alarms and keep them activated when you’re away. An alarm does no good if it isn’t activated.
• Secure your property. Keep home and car doors locked and garage doors closed when not in use.
• Illuminate the exterior of your home as much as possible.
• Give your house a “lived-in” look. Put lights on a timer and don’t leave newspapers in the driveway.
Source: Ocean Ridge Police Department

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