ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Orange County’s new Citizen’s Safety Task Force meeting convened Friday for the first time to address the seven recent shootings that took the lives of two 14-year-olds and one 3-year-old. At the same time, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the Orlando Police Department revealed the large upswing in homicides this year.
Homicides are up 22% in 2020 with almost two months to go compared to all of 2019, according to Sheriff’s Office statistics:
- 66 people have been killed in Orange County this year.
- 75% of the homicides were firearm-related and 22% involved domestic or dating violence.
Undersheriff Mark Canty admitted the trend is troubling.
“That is a lot and I think that’s a nationwide trend where homicides are up,” Canty added. “Homicide is a difficult crime to try and predict, but with the help of the community we’ll put the people responsible in jail.”
In Orlando, the number of shootings and the number of shooting victims almost doubled since last year, according to Orlando Police Department data.
There were 142 shootings and 47 people shot in 2019 compared to 255 shootings and 79 victims so far in 2020.
Orlando Police Deputy Chief Jose Velez said the new Task Force is a first step in combatting the violence.
“We’re partnering with the federal government, we’re partnering with Orange County and with other agencies throughout the county and addressing this,” Velez said. “So we’re expecting to have some serious results once we work together good things happen.”
Sheriff’s Office statistics also show a majority of the homicides occurred in two areas in West Orange County: Pine Hills and Holden Heights off South Orange Blossom Trail.
Canty said he plans to implement the same strategy in Holden Heights that succeeded in Pine Hills.
In 2017, the Orange County Sheriff used a federal grant to dedicate 15 full-time deputies to Pine Hills.
“They’re not just there to work on violent crime, they’re there to build a relationship with a community,” Canty said. “They’re called COPS units, Community-Oriented Policing, because their job is to go out there, find out who the bad people are, put those people in jail, but then also find out who the good people are, and build a relationship with them so when the bad people come out and they’re doing things, we have a relationship with the good people to get the bad people off the street.”
Canty said the Sheriff’s Office plans to send 20 deputies to Holden Heights.
“It’s taking specific deputies, putting them in the area, letting them learn the area, let them learn our allies in the community, and work with those allies to stop the crime,” Canty said.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Part 1 Crimes in Pine Hills, that include Homicide, Aggravated Battery/Assault, Robbery, Sex Crimes, Auto, Residential and Commercial Burglary, fell in 2018 from 1,915 to 1,580. In 2019, Part 1 crimes rose to 1,601 but then fell in 2020 to 1,115.
The number of juveniles arrested fell in 2020 despite juveniles being associated with a number of recent shootings.
“One of the things we’re trying to do with juvenile non-violent offenders, we’re trying to do some alternative methods,” Canty said. “We’re trying to do civil citations, trying to not put them in the system if it’s a minor crime. Violent juveniles we’re absolutely going to target them and try to put them away.”