Good and bad news: What Lake Worth’s 2017 drug overdose numbers show

1:59 p.m Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018 Local
An abandoned 2001 Ford Ranger parked in front of 410 South K Street was red tagged by the Palm Beach County Sheriff s Office in March and removed by the sheriff s office a month later. (Contributed)

Lake Worth had 565 total drug overdoses last year — almost 100 more than the previous year — with the number of fatalities in the 70s, Lake Worth commissioners were told at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“The good news is… (it) has been trending down,” said Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Capt. Todd Baer during his quarterly report. “Hopefully all the things we’re doing are working… we’re seeing some good trends with unscrupulous sober homes being shut down and others moving out of Palm Beach County.”

Meanwhile, Baer said the number of shootings, stabbing and homicides dropped while the number of sexual assaults and robberies is up 56 and 15 percent.

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“Robberies have been a problem and we’re looking for innovative ways to combat them,” he said.

Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell wondered why most overdose deaths happened during the summer. There were seven in June last year and eight and nine for July and August, respectively, Baer’s report showed.

“Do you think that’s a direct reflection on school being out?” Maxwell asked.

Baer said crime in general increases during summer months. “Overdoses have gone up in the summer two years in a row,” he said. “It goes up around the holidays also. Could be a depression issue.”

In June 2016, the city passed a solicitation ordinance to get panhandlers off the street. About 20 arrests have been made since July 22, Baer said.

“It’s really gone away for the most part,” Baer said. “I get off at 10th Avenue on 95 every day and maybe once a week, I see one and we’re right on it.”

Baer said 450 cars received a red tag, with 313 of them removed by the owner. If you own an abandoned, inoperable or derelict vehicle that’s been left on a public right-of-way, Lake Worth wants you to move it… or it will.

The initiative started in May and lasted for two weeks as the city’s code compliance division, in partnership with PBSO, began red tagging those vehicles, giving owners five days to move them.

“The problem has gotten a lot better,” Baer said.

Last year, 186 cars were stolen. Lake Worth recovered 176.

“Citizens are getting used to you being good cops,” said City Commissioner Herman Robinson.

Commissioner Omari Hardy said Lake Worth had two code officers working the issues. Now it has one. Hardy wanted to know when the city would hire another one.

“When we get staffing corralled and all the different issues with have with vacancies, we’ll circle back on that,” City Manager Michael Bornstein said.