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New safety worries following recent spike in West Palm Beach homicides

3 people killed since Friday
Posted at 4:38 PM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-13 18:36:05-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The mayor of West Palm Beach and police are speaking about a recent string of fatal shootings in the city.

Since the weekend, there have been two shootings that have left three dead.

One of the victims was a 16-year-old girl, who police said was an innocent bystander when she was gunned down Friday night at Spruce Avenue and 17th Street.

A separate shooting also occurred last Wednesday, killing a 17-year-old boy and injuring a 16-year-old.

Fatal shootings in West Palm Beach on Dec. 8 and Dec. 10, 2021
Two teenagers were among four people killed last week in West Palm Beach.

Police said these shootings come at a time when it appeared that gun violence was trending down the last couple of years.

The teen girl's death is particularly concerning for police, considering the girl seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"We do have some suspects in mind, and we'll continue to track those down," West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James said. "I'm confident we will bring those folks to justice."

Both the mayor and police said they are actively working on fighting crime and finding the gunman in this case.

"Even one is too many. We continue and work and talk with the police chief, incorporating as many policy changes as possible and increasing our community policing efforts," James said.

Mayor Keith James speaks about the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old girl on Dec. 10, 2021
Mayor Keith James speaks about the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old girl on Dec. 10, 2021, in West Palm Beach.

Before this week, the city was on pace for another year of homicides trending down, according to Deputy Police Chief Richard Morris.

West Palm Beach police said this year has now seen 21 homicides, compared to 17 last year.

"Over the last three years, gun violence has been down. Homicides have been down 29 percent," Morris said.

But now the trends seem to be different.

Palm Beach County has seen a jump in homicides this year from 87 to 103.

Deputy Police Chief Richard Morris
Deputy Police Chief Richard Morris speaks about the recent spike in West Palm Beach homicides.

In West Palm Beach, police have been concentrating on community outreach and using technology like ShotSpotter and license plate readers to fight crime.

"One of our biggest challenges right now with crime in the city is we call it 'criminals without addresses,'" Morris said. "If you go to Tri-Rail, they're coming in from Miami with long criminal histories."

It's something the deputy chief, a Chicago native, said that police are aware of as this city grows and battles big city problems.

Police said the city's homicide clearance rate has now improved to 47% from 22% a couple of years ago.