ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Spread out six feet apart inside the Barnett Park Magic Gymnasium, a group of law enforcement, non-profit, school and community leaders met for Orange County’s first Citizen’s Safety Task Force meeting on Friday.
The group is made up of 30 members who all took a pledge to take on tough topics in relation to recent gun violence in the community. The task force is a result of seven shootings involving teens and children under the age of 17 in recent months. Those shootings led to the murders of Daquane Felix, 3, Denis “Joshua” Atkinson, 14, and Daquarvious Fudge, 14.
In each of these case, Orange County Sheriff John Mina reported they have received only six Crimeline tips or less.
“The community working with the agencies, working with all the parties involved in the process is key,” Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon said. “We have to make sure we do our part to provide that same message, the right message, especially to our youth.”
Both Mina and Rolon presented reports on the recent crime.
In Mina’s report, he said homicides were up in Orange County by 22%. However, deputies have made 246 gang-related arrests and got more than 1,200 guns off the street.
But right after the presentation, community activist and task force members challenged the law enforcement leaders in conversation on broadly using the term gangs.
“It seemed like the reports were targeting heavily populated African American areas,” said member T.J. Legacy Cole.
“You have to be careful when using that broad scope,” added Michael Scott, with the organization My Brother’s Keeper. “If I hang with the bad guy and you say I’m a gang member, I’m not and you put pictures and tell folks I’m this kind of person and I’m part of the solution --why would I want to communicate with you?”
It took what was supposed to be a procedural meeting to set goals and objectives - into a lively discussion. State Attorney Aramis Ayala said that’s where solutions happen.
“That’s where change happens,” she said.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings broke up the task force into subcommittees with four main objectives: prevention, intervention, enforcement and prosecution.
He’s given the task force 120 days to set recommendations and actionable goals to fight gun violence.
“We are looking forward to having a detailed plan of action that will look holistically at dealing with reducing gun violence here within our community,” Demings said.