After hearing concerns that our arrest reports were making West Boca look bad, we decided to do some research. We have good news.
We’re doing a three-part series on crime statistics in West Boca, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach County. In this first part of the series, we compare West Boca to East Boca, and both to the county as a whole.
Update: In Part 2 we look at arrest rates by zip code in all of Boca Raton.
We requested data on every person booked by the Palm Beach County Sheriff in the first quarter of 2014. That data includes the zip code of the arrested person’s residence. Boca Raton has nine zip codes. There are various ways to break down east vs. west. For this exercise (and for other purposes) we define West Boca as being the following five zip codes: 33428, 33498, 33496, 33434 and 33433, with a total population of roughly 135,000 people.
East Boca is then the remaining four zip codes, 33431, 33432, 33486 and 33487, with 75,000 people.
The breakdown isn’t perfect. The city’s own data shows the municipal population at 84,000.
Here’s what the city lines look like:
There is no perfect division of east and west, but the zip codes are very helpful here because each arrest has a zip code associated with it.
It’s also important to note here that the Sheriff’s data includes every count someone’s arrested for as a separate line. In other words, if someone is arrested for battery and for resisting, that’s two counts. In January a man in West Boca was arrested for 36 counts of sexual assault on a minor. That kind of data could really skew the numbers.
So does it make sense to compare crime by number of counts, or by number of arrests? Again there’s no perfect answer. However within Boca, both east and west were close to 1.8 counts per arrest so it shouldn’t matter within Boca. And for county-wide numbers, it would be a lot of work to reduce to just arrests so we’re just going with counts.
West Boca Has Low Crime
The two biggest results we have to report are first that West Boca has a lower crime rate than East Boca, and that Boca as a whole has a much lower crime rate than the county as a whole.
In West Boca there were 1.7 arrests and 2.9 counts per thousand people in the first quarter. East Boca had significantly higher numbers with 2.9 arrests and 5.4 counts per 1000 people. While this might make East Boca seem bad, their numbers are actually much better than the county as a whole.
Palm Beach County has a population of about 1.35 million, and there were almost 15,000 counts county-wide, which means the county crime rate of 11 counts per 1000 people. Taking Boca out of the data gets it to over 12 counts per 1000 people in the rest of the county (i.e. north of Boca). So crime rates in the rest of the county are twice as high as East Boca and almost four times as high as West Boca
We’re still working on the data. In the next part we will go through Boca Raton to see which zip codes have the most arrests and which have the least.
Please keep in mind that there are all kinds of potential problems with our analysis. We did not look at the type or severity of the crimes people were arrested for – at least not yet. Counts can be felonies, misdemeanors, non-criminal infractions, probation violations, recommits and others. We did not (and could not) look at crimes by where they happened, instead relying on the address of the person arrested. Of course, people are innocent until proven guilty and the numbers cannot account for guilt. And there are other problems we haven’t even thought of. Comparing and contrasting our analysis and data with Crime Statistics Australia might aid us in deepening our future analysis, increasing the data range that we can draw on to better judge the local crime trends.