By Rich Pollack
Your doorbell camera and other video security systems could be a factor in a significant drop in crime in south Palm Beach County coastal communities.
According to Florida Department of Law Enforcement statistics released in late June, the number of 2018 crimes dropped from the previous year in every coastal South County community except for Lantana.
In the smallest communities, the number of significant crimes — ranging from auto theft to murder — dropped substantially. In Gulf Stream, for example, only three crimes were reported in 2018, down from 28 the previous year. In Ocean Ridge, the number dropped from 46 to 30, and in Highland Beach there were 27 crimes reported compared to 40 the previous year.
South Palm Beach, which in 2017 reported 12 crimes, had only one theft and one burglary reported in 2018. Manalapan’s crime numbers dropped from 28 to 16.
Larger cities in the area also saw a drop in overall crime rates, as did Palm Beach County, where the crime rate declined 11 percent. Statewide, crime was down in 2018 by 9 percent from the previous year.
One common denominator in every coastal South County community was a decline in burglaries, and many in law enforcement say technology may be a driving factor.
“We’re seeing more home security cameras and more doorbell cameras,” said Highland Beach Police Chief Craig Hartmann. “They’re a deterrent and also a solution. When we do have a problem, we are now getting digital evidence.”
Technology that allows homeowners and business people to monitor their systems remotely is also playing a role in preventing burglaries and apprehending suspects when they do occur.
“Technology is a deterrent,” said Delray Beach Assistant Police Chief Gene Sapino, who pointed out that alarm systems also help prevent break-ins.
A case in point: Late last month, a Delray Beach resident was at work when his home security company notified him that his alarm was activated. Police were notified, and using his phone, which was connected to surveillance cameras, he could see someone inside his home carrying a bag.
Officers arrived and arrested a suspect as he walked out of the home. They also recovered items taken from the home.
Boynton Beach police say they too see technology as helping to prevent crimes.
“Many homes in our city are equipped with doorbell cameras and video surveillance,” said police spokesperson Stephanie Slater. “Residents often contact us when they see suspicious activity on videos, and we appreciate their willingness to work with us to keep their neighborhoods safe.”
Law enforcement officials throughout the area say that improved cooperation and communication between police and residents also play a role in lowering rates of burglary and other crimes.
“We have a good working relationship with our communities,” said Sapino of Delray Beach, where community engagement is a high priority for the Police Department.
Communication with residents — and residents who follow through — may also be a factor in keeping crime down.
“Successful policing of any community requires a cooperative effort between law enforcement and the people they serve,” said Ocean Ridge Police Chief Hal Hutchins.
In Boca Raton, technology and communication with the public are coming together thanks to a recently announced partnership between the Police Department and Ring. The video doorbell maker offers a neighborhood watch app, “Neighbors,” that provides real-time, local crime and safety information.
Although crime is on the decline, police throughout the area say residents still need to be vigilant and take steps to avoid becoming victims. One concern remains the rise in thefts from cars, often committed by people from outside the area.
Law enforcement is continuing to urge residents not to leave valuables, especially guns, in their vehicles overnight and to keep locking their cars, trucks and SUVs.