WEST PALM BEACH — Last Monday, city officials and people living near the 45th Street Flea Market squared off, with residents calling for the market to be shutdown. The meeting comes after the city declared the flea market a chronic nuisance and ordered code and other violations to be remedied.
But residents say their near-by middle-class neighborhood is being affected by the crime and activity at the flea market. Since January 2013, there have been 423 police calls to the market, three shootings and a federal raid.
Mayor Jeri Muoio told residents there is a legal process that the city has to follow and the goal is to make the flea market a safe place.The same day of the meeting, police reported that crime is dropping in West Palm Beach.
According to new statistics from the police department, violent crimes have dropped about 5 percent over the past year.New statistics also show a drop of about 9 percent in property crimes.
The new figures were released by West Palm Beach Police Chief Vincent Demasi during a strategic planning session with Muoio and members of the City Commission.
“It is reflective of the work the police department is doing in concert with the whole city staff,” Demasi told city leadership. “If we don’t have street lights, if we don’t have garbage picked up, if we don’t have all the great things we do here in West Palm Beach, no matter how many police officers you put out there, it’s not going to work and it’s not going to lead to reductions in crime.”
Demasi also reviewed information on his department’s focus on diversion programs. Demasi said diversion is a critical part of a crime reduction strategy, and necessary in order for the system to continue to operate efficiently.
“What we focus on is trying to divert people out of the system from the start and some of those partnerships have been extremely effective,” said Demasi. Back in
December the department received a grant for $1.25 million to hire 10 police officers. It is now recruiting. The West Palm Beach Police have been battling crime in the city. Last October city leaders met in a Sister City Summit to address several topics but the hot topic was public safety. Most of the concerns stemmed from the 45th Street Flea Market.
The market is located on the border between West Palm Beach and Mangonia Park, but is also frequently visited by residents of Riviera Beach, as was pointed out by Riviera Beach officials at the summit.