Orlando police officers become problem solvers as they address complaints, concerns

Unit tackles tips on gangs, drug houses

ORLANDO, Fla. – While many police departments are stretched thin, racing from call to call responding to crime, the Orlando Police Department has dedicated an entire unit -- 40 officers -- to making life better and safer for neighbors.

Newly promoted Capt. Jonathan Bigelow oversees OPD’s Special Enforcement Division.

“The citizens call in and complain and we answer their complaints,” Bigelow said. “They see cars coming and going all day and night, they see cars and occupants meeting at the doors of the vehicles, hand to hand motions. They call about shootings occurring in the area, where individuals are outside waving guns.”

After a tip to the Crimeline, Bigelow said SED raided a house in the Englewood neighborhood of Orlando and discovered 12 drug addicts inside.

“The neighbors called in a complaint that there was too much suspicious activity occurring at one of these residences, just individuals coming and going all day and night,” Bigelow said. “As our investigation continued we discovered this was a key user spot. Sometimes there were massive amounts of drugs being sold, but mostly users coming and going.”

Englewood surrounds Roberto Clemente Middle School. Behind the school is the Lake Frederica neighborhood, where SED seized “840 grams of THC, 22 grams of Heroin, 14 of cocaine, 6 of fentanyl, 157 pills, 3 firearms & over $4,000 in cash” according to an OPD tweet.

“It brings down their property values, it brings down their way of life,” Bigelow said. “They’re trying to raise a family and you don’t want to say, ‘It’s OK it’s just a drug house down the street, nothing to see here.’”

Bigelow said most tips that SED follows up on come in through the Crimeline.

“(About) 90% to 95% of the citizens that give us information regarding drug activity, violent crime, gang activity, is filtered through Crimeline. That is because Crimeline has established themselves as such a hard-and-fast ‘we maintain your anonymity, we will not compromise you for the sake of anything.’”

And most callers never call back.

“They don’t care about the money,” Bigelow said. “If it’s your neighborhood, would you care about the money as long as the drug dealers were out of your neighborhood?”

The 40 SED officers each get up to a month to investigate a tip and build a case.

“They have nothing to focus on but the assignments we give them and the complaints that come down,” Bigelow said. “We want to do it right, so having our dedicated detectives do their due diligence to ensure that their investigation is complete and right, and that we get great results, versus just circumstantial hap-hazard results, that’s what we want to do.”

OPD has posted several pictures to Twitter of guns, drugs and money confiscated during raids.

“TWO FOR TWO: The Special Enforcement Division heard from citizens concerned about drug activity in 2 areas near Millenia and Downtown. As a result, SED seized 1 assault rifle, 3 handguns, a total of 204 grams of cannabis, and more than $4000 in cash. #SeeSomethingSaySomething,” reads one tweet.

“YOUR HELP MATTERS: When residents call something in, SED gets to work. Last week, several citizen complaints about an apartment on Raleigh Street uncovered drugs, cash, a handgun, and ammunition, among other items,” read another.

“That’s what the citizens pay us for, they expect results,” Bigelow said. “The benefit of having a dedicated unit such as the Special Enforcement Division, that focuses on gangs and violent crimes and drugs, focuses on those overdosing, whether or not they’ve died or having been saved, we’re trying our best to keep these neighborhoods safe.”

Bigelow said it’s a community effort.

“Cooperative trust and understanding between the department of community is a must,” Bigelow said. “Otherwise we’re just out there and they don’t trust us. We try very hard at earning their trust and maintaining that, through the fact that we respond and act appropriately. Do it right.”

The Crimeline number is 1-800-423-TIPS.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.