Activist gets results by transforming crime-ridden Cocoa neighborhood

Larry Sinclair stands up to crime, neglect

COCOA, Fla – Broadmoor Acres is one of Cocoa's oldest subdivisions, and when Larry Sinclair moved there three years ago, it was showing its age. 

Crime, neglect and a high number of abandoned bank-owned properties left original homeowners in a neighborhood that they barely recognized. 

When Sinclair bought the 1950s concrete-block home on Mitchel Street, he knew it needed work. Thieves had stripped it of cooper wire and anything else of value. But when he became a victim of crime, he knew it was time for change. 

"I went around the neighborhood with pictures from the security cameras, and I asked people to start getting involved," said Sinclair, explaining how he first took on the role of neighborhood activist. 

From there, Sinclair started the nonprofit Broadmoor Acres Community Restoration and Preservation Inc.(BACRAP).

"For the first time in many years, neighbors actually got involved and started helping each other," he said.

The first neighborhood watch meeting attracted 72 residents and was a signal to City Jall that change was possible. 

"From there, it kind of blossomed," Sinclair said.

Sinclair has been quick to call code enforcement, and he's a regular at city meetings as he tries to get help for everything from crime to infrastructure. 

"He's just determined to get it done," Cocoa City Council member Brenda Warner said. "If every neighborhood in Cocoa had a Larry Sinclair, it would make my job, the police department's job, the city staff's job so much easier." 

Sinclair admitted that it hasn't been easy, and there was an element that wasn't happy about the changes and new law enforcement spotlight in the five-block area.  

"As far as  the neighborhood is concerned, I'm the nosy neighbor in the middle of Mitchel Street that wants to clean up the neighborhood," Sinclair said.

He said longtime residents tell stories of how quiet, safe and family-oriented the neighborhood once was when it was built.  Sinclair said they're the reason why he works so hard.

"For me, it's not so much the neighborhood, but it's the people," Sinclair said.

Sinclair has convinced friends and philanthropists to purchase properties in the neighborhood and hold mortgages for first-time homeowners. 

"I think owners take more pride in where they live," he said. "Not a single family that we have put into a house as an owner has failed to make a payment on time. Most make a payment plus some."

BACRAP has bought six lots in the neighborhood, and Sinclair has plans to build new homes and even a community center on them. 

"I want to see this neighborhood back to the way it was (when it was built)," he said. "It's slowly getting back to that."

This week, the Cocoa City Council agreed to waive over half a million dollars in unpaid liens and fines on properties recently purchased by the non-profit. Without this extra burden, these properties can be developed into new affordable housing.  

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