Residents frustrated with Orange County Sheriff's Office response times

Some residents say OCSO deputies take more than 30 minutes to arrive

File photo.
File photo.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Tau Nguyen is one of several people in the Hunter's Creek community upset about how long it has taken for the Orange County Sheriff's Office to respond to the community's calls for help.

"People go in the back forest here, and I called the police, but by the time they get here, they're gone," Nguyen said.

Nguyen said he and his neighbors are frustrated. At times, OCSO deputies take more than 30 minutes to arrive after they call for help.

Nguyen wasn't surprised when Local 6 told him it took deputies nearly a full hour -- 59 minutes -- to respond to a call from one of his neighbors reporting a man with a rifle in their community park.

"There were just two guys walking through a residential park with a firearm," the caller said, according to a May 911 call released Tuesday night by the Sheriff's Office.

"They were walking with a rifle," the caller continued. "And they ended up jumping the fence and going back into undeveloped territory."

"So you actually saw them walking with a rifle?" the dispatcher asked.

"Yes, ma'am, I have video," the caller said. "I videotaped it."

[WEB EXTRA: 911 call]

Nguyen said, "I'm not that surprised because I've called them myself and it's taken them a while to get here, too."

Local 6 has been investigating the issue for weeks. When Local 6 anchor Lisa Bell visited the neighborhood, she met a mom jogging around the park just after she ran by what she called suspicious activity. She was so concerned she too called for help.

"I live here in Hunter's Creek and there's some kids smoking pot right next to Lake Vista," she told dispatchers.

Local 6 producer Sean Lavin waited on scene to see how long it took for deputies to respond to her call. Thirty-five minutes later, a deputy arrived, but the kids were gone.

Local 6 reviewed Orange County calls for service records from June 2014 until June 2015 and found 25,455 suspicious persons calls during that time. In about 20 percent of those cases, the suspicious people were listed as "GOA," or "gone on arrival" of the deputies.

Bell asked Sheriff's Office spokesman Jeff Williamson if the wait times, including the nearly 1 hour wait in response to a man with a rifle, were acceptable.

"Yes, if there's a major incident somewhere else, yes, an hour -- two (is acceptable)," Williamson said. "If there's a major incident somewhere else, with known subjects, known bad guys with guns going into a residence, (responding to) a suicide."

On the day the man called about a rifle in his neighborhood, Williamson explained the deputies were already responding to two other calls -- a suicide and an armed burglary -- and those took priority.

"A burglary to a dwelling, guys with guns?" Williamson asked. "Come on. We're going to do that first."

Williamson added that once the more major call clears, "We're going to that call where there may have been a person going into the woods with a gun."

"They want you to speak up, but then when you call them, sometimes it can be frustrating to wait for a long time for them to get here," Nguyen said.

But the Sheriff's Office said the calls must be prioritized and the office has enough deputies on the street to handle calls in a timely fashion.

When, personally, we don't get what we want, it's frustrating, I get it," Williamson said. "But know that the Orange County Sheriff's Office ... has not forgotten you, has not forgotten that call, will not forget that call and people will get in trouble when those calls are forgotten."

Even if they had more deputies on the street, Williamson said the higher priority calls still must be handled first.

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