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  • Jasmine Lien

West Palm Beach residents challenge city’s violent crime statistics

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Statistical data from Best Places reveals that the violent crime rate in West Palm Beach is nearly twice as much as the average rate in the United States. Locals, especially women, question the safety of the city.

“At night, I definitely am more cautious. Even walking to other places in the city from here that are an eight or 10-minute walk off campus, I can get a little worried,” one college student shared after recently moving to the area. “So, I have pepper spray to protect myself.”

Hannah Lord, a manager and chief instructor at Allstar Martial Arts Academy in downtown WPB, places an emphasis on being prepared.

“There’s a lot of scary people out there, a lot of unknown situations, so it’s important to always be prepared,” Lord says, “We teach it as being key in self-defense, whether that be techniques, objects you have on you for personal protection, or awareness.”

Lord suggests avoiding alleyways and places in Downtown Clematis that are secluded and not well-lit. Preparedness means always being aware, even if the situation or place is familiar. She advises locals to be ready to defend themselves physically, but only when necessary.

“If there’s somebody coming at you, whether that be with a weapon or to grab and try to hurt you, have your hands free. Be ready to attack those vulnerable points -- the nose, between the legs, the gut, the knees -- to do a little damage so that you can have enough time to get out of that situation,” Lord explains. “You can use a palm strike, elbow strike, knee strike, or even a kick if you’re comfortable.”

But with the COVID-19 pandemic, Lord suggests using personal weapons that allow you to keep a distance from your attacker. “I would say pepper spray is a good one. Things where you don’t have to get up close and personal, I’m all for.”

Violent crimes that are tracked include murder, rape, and assault. The chances of becoming a victim of crime are approximately 1 in 23 in WPB, according to AreaVibes. Statistical data shows that WPB is only safer than 5% of U.S. cities. AreaVibes shows that the average violent crime rate is 101% higher than the national average.

Local residents, especially women, are encouraged to learn the basics of self-defense to stay proactive when entering unknown situations and in areas with high crime rates.

Lord notes, “It only takes a class or two to get the basics and footprint of how to defend yourself in any situation.”

By Jasmine Lien and Alijah Simmons

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