CLERMONT, Fla. – It was an incredible story of success five years ago: A Clermont community easily considered one of the most dangerous places in Central Florida with regular robberies, attacks, and murders becoming a safe haven for seniors and families.
In 2018, News 6 met the police officer who made it his mission to motivate neighbors to take back their condo complex. And he got results.
Five years later, News 6 went back to Oakhurst to meet up with the same officer to see if the success is staying.
What did we find? Everything that you’d see and hear in a typical neighborhood: people sweeping their walkways, children playing and neighbors talking.
It’s what neighbors have gotten used to in the corner cluster of condos in Clermont known as Oakhurst.
Clermont Police Officer David Colon is largely responsible for the initial success and the ongoing success.
“They feel like it’s safe, they feel like it’s home, they want to come back home, their children are playing outside with no fear which is huge,” Colon said.
It wasn’t always this way. Oakhurst used to be one of the most dangerous spots in the city until 2017.
When Colon got the blessing from his police chief to start showing up — regularly, even daily — he instituted community cleanups, breakfast get-togethers, potluck dinners, and an overall sense of neighborliness, pride and responsibility.
Today, Oakhurst is safer than it’s been in decades.
“We have not had any violent crime in four years,” Colon said.
Children and grandchildren of the original owners have now come to live in Oakhurst, and neighborhood stewards now keep watch.
“They will actually alert us when something is not correct, when something doesn’t seem right, they will quickly alert us,” Colon said. “Versus before, people were afraid to even call in.”
These days, Officer Colon still shows up. But not nearly as much. He doesn’t need to.
“It’s a testament that the police can initiate something and if they get the community involved, the community buys in, the community may just take over and that’s what’s happened here,” Colon said.
Colon said the Clermont PD has taken pieces of their success in Oakhurst and applied it to communities across the city, especially the lesson of getting out of the patrol car and getting to know the neighbors, motivating them to know either each other.
Besides the regular visits, Colon or other Clermont police officers get together with neighbors every Tuesday morning at a local McDonald’s.
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