ORLANDO, Fla. – Ten Orlando police officers will be dedicated to five high-crime areas around the city tasked exclusively with getting to know the community they serve, Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon announced Monday.
“They will build personal relationships with kids, members of the community, individuals that are often reluctant to come forward and be part of the process to reduce crime, because they build that trust,” Rolon said.
The new Neighborhood Patrol Unit (NPU) will not be a “call-taking unit.” Officers will assist with crime but will primarily spend their days walking, talking, meeting and greeting.
The officers, working in pairs, will get to know people in five areas around Orlando where gun violence has spiked this year.
Sgt. Yong Hall, the supervisor over the Neighborhood Patrol Unit, said the officers will work to build and rebuild trust.
“We have a lot mending to do between the community and police and that’s what we’re here to do,” Hall said. “Our goals are to have everyone in the community know our neighborhood officers by name.”
Hall said a new grant has allowed OPD to hire more officers to be able to dedicate the 10 exclusively to the Neighborhood Patrol Unit.
“In the past our call volumes have been so high, our officers have been running call to call, they’re unable to stay and build that relationship,” Hall said.
All of the officers assigned to the unit were handpicked and underwent a “rigorous selection process, that looked at many facets, including their training, community service, and professional and compassionate conduct when working with members of the community.”
Officer Michelle Rogers, a former public information officer, and Officer Marcus Hyatt, a former assistant state attorney, spent Monday introducing themselves to managers and residents at the troubled Windsor Cover apartment complex on Mercy Drive.
“This has been significantly an area of high crime,” Rogers said.
Rogers knows the area - she went to Molly Rae Elementary School and graduated from Evans High School.
“This is home, and I really care about this community and want to see it thrive,” Rogers said. “There are families who love where they live and want a safe place to come home to.”
Orlando Police have said the biggest challenge they face in high-crime areas is earning the trust of people so they’ll turn to police for help. Often, after a shooting, police will get no help and no tips, hearing “no one saw anything.”
Windsor Cover property manager Sarah Lewis is working to renovate, rejuvenate and revitalize the apartment complex. She said it’s a culture.
“If your mother and father were weary of people, you’d probably be weary of police, too,” Lewis said. “It’s not until you have a positive encounter with police that you start to change your attitude about police.”
Lewis happily welcomed the new partnership with police.
Hyatt said officers must turn relationships into partnerships.
“People can’t trust us if they don’t know us, so we want people to get to know us so people can all feel we have a stake in the community,” Hyatt said. “It’s not just your community, it’s our community.”
OPD said the new NPU is part of the city’s “ongoing work to further community policing and change, as we all work together to address racial inequities in the Orlando community.”
“Re-enhancing the Neighborhood Patrol Unit in this critical time of need for inclusive policing shows our commitment to working collaboratively with residents, in order to address community concerns and cultivate positive relationships,” Rolon said.