PINE HILLS, Fla. – New crime statistics show crime in the Pine Hills area is down by 15 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Area commander Capt. Tony Marlow said he credits, in part, the addition of 16 patrol deputies in the past year and the increased visibility of deputies.
"You see us at the community centers, you see us at the YMCA. Also we try to have a midnight basketball game every month to give the youth a different alternative," Marlow said.
Marlow loves Pine Hills and serving as the patrol supervisor in the area.
"There are a lot of good people here, and I see them on a daily basis," Marlow said. "We try to convey a positive image to let them know what we do."
News 6 rode along with Marlow on Thursday as he patrolled the area. He said his department is always working to find new and creative ways to better relate to Pine Hills residents.
"We try to do a good job of being visible," Marlow said.
According to the Orange County Sheriff's Office, there were 2,265 total incidents in 2017, compared to 1,918 incidents in 2018, including 10 homicides in 2017 and seven in 2018. So far in 2019, deputies say, three people were killed, which includes 19-year-old Tyrese Pugh, who was shot dead last month on Fairwood Way.
"We go to businesses and we talk to the business owners to find out issues that are important to them," Marlow said. "Just because they don’t see us in marked cars, we’re there in unmarked cars, too."
Marlow said they're focusing more resources on the Pine Hills and Silver Star Road area after noticing a spike in recent overall crime there. He said they're mostly seeing an increase in car and home burglaries.
Meanwhile, some residents say there’s still more deputies can do. Some residents told News 6 they can't relate to the patrol deputies.
"Just relax and let them know, hey, you’re human," Marcus Brown said.
Brown grew up in Pine Hills and now works to keep children on track. He runs a program called IHope Mentoring.
"We have 40 boys. Thirty of them don’t have an active father figure in their life, either dead, in prison or just absent," Brown said.
Brown said his boys want to be able to better relate to deputies, but it starts with first trusting them.
"Sometimes, just come more plain clothes with a badge around your neck, and just talk and let’s vibe. I would love to see that because that bridges the gap," Brown said.
Many Pine Hills residents say they've seen the increased patrol presence in Pine Hills and more programs. Many believe it could be the reason for the crime reduction.
Marlow said the Orange County Sheriff's Office will continue to work to better bridge the gap in the Pine Hills community. He said they’re having a community cookout at Barnett Park on April 17.