Crime continues to decline in Pine Hills

Local business owner credits dedicated deputy

PINE HILLS, Fla. – As she rolls over an empty basket to a customer, the manger of the Super Coin Laundromat in Pine Hills, Jenny Maguire, says there's not much to worry about anymore even though just two years ago, families felt unsafe washing their clothes at her shop. 

"Before, you couldn't put your change here. You turn, and they took you money," Maguire said pointing to the top of a heavy-duty washing machine. "Two years ago this place wasn't safe. I mean, you come here, but you are taking a chance."

However, things have changed and now families folding sheets feel comfortable at Super Coin Laundromat. Orange County Sheriff John Mina announced Tuesday night at a community meeting that crime in Pine Hills continues to go down. 

"Since 2015, crime in Pine Hills has dropped by 38 percent. Since 2016, the rate of homicides has been decreased by almost half," Mina said. 

Adding to those numbers, officials from the Sheriff's Office said crime overall in the neighborhood is down 18 percent in the last year. As for homicides, they were down 13 percent last year. There were seven in 2018, compared to eight in 2017, according to numbers provided.

Since 2016, Orange County sheriff's deputies have tried different approaches. First, they launched Operation RISE in 2016, adding a substation at the corner of Pine Hills Road and Silver Star Road.

Then they tried Operation Cease Fire, which called for monthly walks with those in the community.

However,  Maguire said community policing is having the biggest impact. She credits the reduction in crime near her business to one deputy named Andrea Demps, whom Maguire met last year.

"She took special interest, she cleaned up around here," Maguire said.

Demps' position was one of 16 added thanks to a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Maguire said those deputies were able to add cameras around her business and surrounding areas and could watch those cameras remotely.

It's helped reduce loitering and drug deals right outside her business.

"I always tell her, 'Thank you,' because if it wasn't for her, I don't know how long it was going to go on for," Maguire said. "That makes you feel good, you know, like you aren't alone."