ORLANDO, Fla. – Community leaders and police officers came together Wednesday to discuss a recent spike in violent crimes in Pine Hills and surrounding areas of Orange County.
At the "Coffee with a Cop" event, officers spoke with residents about what can be done to curb gun violence.
"We've got to come up with a strategy for the community to feel safe again," the Rev. Justin Felton said.
Within the last week, Orlando police and the Orange County Sheriff's Office have investigated several shootings, which has inspired some community members to seek answers from police.
"The alarm is ringing throughout the community to say 'What's going to happen? What will we do about it,'" Felton said.
So far this year, there have been 36 homicides in the city of Orlando, which is two more than at this point last year and six more than in 2014.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said the recent shootings have prompted a larger police presence to go hand-in-hand with a gun violence task force. The chief also discussed harsher penalties for violent offenders, but said the root of invoking change is from within troubled neighborhoods.
"A lot of people want to know how they can help out in the community with some recent violence in the Pine Hills area," Mina said. "What I've been telling people is that's exactly right, we need help from the community."
Those talking with officers Wednesday said convincing some to share information with police may be difficult, but building relationships at events like "Coffee with a Cop" could be a first step toward saving lives.
"This is that moment where we can bring both parts together. We can bring the police, and we can bring the public," Felton said.