A Small Florida Town is Suddenly the 2nd Most Dangerous in State


Florida is well-known for its bright beaches, amusement parks, and rich cultural diversity. However, it also harbors some of the nation’s most criminalized and violent areas. Florida has the third-highest violent crime rate in the US, behind only Alaska and New Mexico, according to the most recent FBI data.

Large cities like Miami, Jacksonville, and Orlando are home to some of the state’s most infamous crime hotspots, but a little hamlet has just overtaken even some of the state’s most populous metropolises to rank as the second-most dangerous location. That town is called Pawokee, and it is a small town in Palm Beach County with 6,000 or so citizens.

What makes Pahokee so dangerous?

For many years, Pahokee has been beset by social issues, unemployment, and poverty. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Pahokee’s poverty rate is 40.9%, which is more than double the state average of 15.4%. In Pahokee, the typical household income is $26,731, which is less than half of the state average of $59,227. Pahokee’s unemployment rate is 10.6%, while the state average is 4.8%.

These financial difficulties have exacerbated Pahokee’s criminal and violent culture. The FBI reports that Pahokee’s violent crime rate for 2019 was 2,025.6 per 100,000 residents, which was second highest in the state only to Florida City’s 2,776.8 rate. With 11 homicides in 2019, Pahokee also has the highest murder rate in the state (183.3 per 100,000 inhabitants). The national murder rate for 2019 was five per 100,000 people, to put this into context.

A number of things, such as gang activity, drug trafficking, domestic conflicts, and a shortage of law enforcement resources, have contributed to the violence in Pahokee. Pahokee is close to Lake Okeechobee, a significant crossing point for narcotics entering the United States from Mexico and Central America. Pahokee also has a history of neighborhood conflicts that have led to deaths and shootings, including those between the Ridge and Muck City. Furthermore, Pahokee has a small police force—just 12 officers keep watch over the community.

What is being done to improve the situation?

There are some indications of improvement and hope in Pahokee despite the depressing statistics. Recent grants from the federal and state governments have helped the town with infrastructure improvements, public safety initiatives, and economic growth. For instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Pahokee a $1.4 million grant to modernize its water and sewer system. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity also awarded Pahokee a $500,000 grant to help with downtown revitalization and employment creation.

In addition, a few neighborhood projects and groups are attempting to lower Pahokee’s crime and violence rates. Among these is the Pawokee Promise, an alliance of nonprofit organizations, faith-based organizations, and community leaders that seeks to offer at-risk adolescents and families support services, education, and mentoring. Another is the high school football team in the community, the Pawokee Blue Devils, which has offered many young men a good outlet and the opportunity to follow their aspirations. They have produced multiple NFL stars.


For years, Pahokee, a small community in Florida, has struggled with a severe crime and violence problem. The community has been dealing with social and economic issues and has some of the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, and homicide in the state. Pahokee is not a hopeless case, though. There are some initiatives and chances to turn things around and make the community a better, safer place to live. The town of Pahokee requires greater consideration, funding, and assistance from the federal government as well as the state. Pahokee is a town that merits the opportunity to grow and prosper despite its current issues.

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