Safe and Dangerous Places in Palm Beach

by Nancy Munro, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Oct 5th 2010 09:39 PM

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Areas to Avoid Palm Beach

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You know why you're in Palm Beach – a visit to Grandma, a business trip, a long weekend, or an extended stay in your second home. But what are the areas to avoid in Palm Beach?

We're not talking specific point-A-to-point-B destinations. We're talking about how to get where you're going safely by avoiding dangerous, high-crime areas and locating areas that are attractive for their beaches, bars, restaurants, shopping, culture, and low crime.
With its beautiful beaches and the wildlife areas of MacArthur Beach State Park and Peanut Island within its boundaries, you wouldn't initially think of Riviera Beach, a city of 34,000 located north of West Palm Beach, as a dangerous place. But it depends on who you ask – and which side of the Intracoastal Waterway you're on. East of the Blue Heron Bridge, there's the strip of land known as Singer Island. Although residents of this area disdain admitting it, they are part of the larger, politically problematic and crime-plagued Riviera Beach. Singer Island is a pleasant place to walk, catch some sun, and dine beach-side at one of the many high-rise luxury hotels. West of the bridge is home to a large population of poverty-level residents (32% of the city's residents live at or below the poverty level) and crime (3,200 arrests in 2009, the majority for larceny and aggravated assault).

The Rapids Water Park on Military Trail and the Singer Island beaches, hotels, MacArthur Park, and Peanut Island are certainly safe places for tourists. However, devoid of attractions and dangerous for the accidental tourist, the area from 59th Street north to Blue Heron Boulevard and from the bridge west to Australian Avenue are considered more unsafe areas.

Moving south, the combination of West Palm Beach and the Town of Palm Beach offer many safe venues for driving, cycling, and walking. The Town of Palm Beach (known as "The Island" to locals) can be reached by three bridges (Royal Park, Southern, and Flagler) and is patrolled by its own police force. This wealthy enclave of 10,000 is separated from Singer Island/Riviera Beach by a narrow channel of water - and a huge difference in the crime rate. A mere 148 arrests were made here in 2009, with 123 of them for larceny. Whether you want to window shop Worth Avenue, or cycle the Lake Trail bike path, this is one of the safe areas in Palm Beach.

West Palm Beach, a city of 103,000 residents, can be another story. The Northwood area (Northwood Road north to 36th Street, between U.S. 1 and Poinsettia Avenue), once a deserted, seedy and downright scary place, is renovated and open for business with shops and restaurants. The downtown hub of City Place shopping and dining, the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and the Clematis Street nightlife scene is fine during the day on foot, but inadvisable at night, unless accessed by car or trolley. Some of the nearby areas, including the Tamarind Avenue corridor in the city's northwest section (Banyan Boulevard north to 45th Street, between Pinewood and Windsor Avenues), are a major contributor to the city's crime rate: 6,200 arrests last year, with 376 robbery arrests, 468 aggravated assaults and over 3,600 larcenies.

The cities of Delray Beach, located in the county's southern end, are a mere 10 miles apart and have downtowns that are attracting people to live, work, play, shop, and eat. Delray's main artery, East Atlantic Avenue, boasts new restaurants with cuisines ranging from burgers and tacos to Asian fusion and Italian home style cooking, along with boutiques and artist showrooms. Lake Worth's Lake Avenue (eastbound) and Lucerne Avenue (westbound) commercial district is famous for its antique shops, but there are plenty of ethnic restaurants on the avenues and the surrounding "alphabet" streets. Both these downtowns are made for walking, during daylight hours, and represent two Palm Beach safe areas.

But both cities have their share of crime – primarily around their downtown areas. Delray Beach, with a population of about 63,000, had over 4,000 arrests in 2009, with almost 2,500 for larceny, 770 for burglary, 350 for aggravated assault, and 200 for robbery. After dark, the streets just off Atlantic Avenue from SW 10 Street north to Lake Ida Road, and from SW 14 Avenue East to SE 5 Avenue are areas to avoid in Palm Beach.

Lake Worth has 36,000 residents, with 2,500 arrests, but the crime breakdown differs. About 1,100 of the 2009 arrests were for larceny; however, a significant portion was for burglary. While the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office patrols the area regularly, visitors unfamiliar with the area need to be extra cautious and aware of the dangers in this area of Palm Beach.

In the county's northern end, the Jupiter/Tequesta area is worth a stop offering quiet beaches without retail development, five public golf courses, hiking and canoeing in Jonathan Dickinson State Park, and an array of dining options, from beach-side grills to white tablecloth elegance. Tequesta's crime rate is negligible – only 67 arrests in 2009 in a village with a population of just under 6,000.

The town of Jupiter, with a population of about 50,000, had 1,500 arrests in 2009, with 1,000 of those for larceny, 300 for burglary, and the remaining for robbery and motor vehicle theft. Most of Jupiter is safe at any time, but like Lake Worth, crimes are sometimes an issue. Dangerous places would include Center Street South to Indiantown Road, between Orange Avenue and Pennock Lane. Also take care while at south of Indiantown Road to Toney Penna Drive, between Dixie Highway and Military Trail.

Although recent newspaper stories have mentioned issues of rowdiness and vandalism in the Abacoa Town Center area, the presence of a police substation here does make a night of bar-hopping, dining, baseball-watching, or concert-going a relatively safe experience.

Okay, got your golf clubs, beach chair, sunblock, walking shoes, and common sense? As is the case with any destination, be sensible and smart. If you don't know, ask before you go. Plan the route according to time of day, road construction issues, destination activity, and be sure to use your knowledge of areas to avoid in Palm Beach.
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