Public Safety Update from the Mayor
One year ago, Chief Val Demings took the
helm of the Orlando Police Department. Her appointment as Chief was
historic, marking the first woman to serve as Chief of Police. But, I
didn’t appoint Chief Demings to make history. It was her no-nonsense,
aggressive approach to taking criminals off Orlando’s streets that made
her the ideal candidate for the job.
Recently, Chief Demings and I met with
the local news media to discuss her first year and outline the
strategies OPD is using as the City moves forward with its aggressive
effort to combat violent crime. As part of our continuing effort to
engage the community in keeping our streets safe, I want to share this
same information with you.
I am pleased to report that this year
under Chief Demings’ leadership violent crime in the City of Orlando has
dropped by 10 percent. This includes robbery, rape and aggravated
assault. This has been achieved through additional officers on the
streets, the use of specialty units, intelligence-lead policing,
technology advancements and “hot spot policing,” which saturates high
crime areas with uniformed police officers.
However, a challenge still remains in
reducing the City’s homicide rate. While the 2008 numbers are lower than
the record-setting year we experienced in 2006, it is an increase over
2007. In order to better understand the factors contributing to the
homicide rate, Chief Demings evaluated the homicides and found they fall
into three categories. I believe these categories provide important
context when looking at the City’s crime rate.
In 2008, 10 of the City’s 42 homicides
were categorized as domestic violence. Tragically this is five more
cases compared with 2007. Many of the victims never sought help which
could have prevented a tragic ending. In an effort to increase awareness
about available support services, the Orlando Police Department has
partnered with Harbor House. This partnership allows us to more
effectively identify victims who don’t seek help and provide them with
potentially life-saving services.
The cases that fall into the second
category are senseless tragedies without any rationale or motive. Four
of this year’s homicides fall within this category. I commit to you that
the men and women of OPD work tirelessly everyday to solve these cases
and prevent similar cases from happening again.
Of the City’s 42 homicides, 29 fall into
the final category. In the vast majority of these cases the male victims
and male suspects share similar backgrounds. At least 95 percent of the
victims and suspects had criminal histories. One-third of the suspects
had been arrested at least 20 times. One-quarter of the victims had been
arrested at least 10 times and about 40 percent of the suspects and
victims had been arrested for dealing drugs.
The challenges presented in this last
category shape the strategies Chief Demings will implement this year. A
startling 69 percent of the homicides involved a firearm. The number one
focus will be to get guns out of the hands of criminals who are not
supposed to have them. Recently, Chief Demings appointed Lt. Victor
Uvalle to the newly formed position of Violent Crimes Initiative
Commander. In this role, Lt. Uvalle, a 28-year veteran of the Orlando
Police Department will coordinate violent crime initiatives between the
Orlando Police Department and local, state and federal agencies to
include the State and US Attorney Offices. Lt. Uvalle will attend
legislative sessions, the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Summit and other
crime related summits to advance and enhance our efforts to remove
illegal guns from our streets.
While we continue to focus on decreasing
violent crime, Chief Demings will tell you the men and women of the
Orlando Police Department can’t do it alone. In order to maintain our
safe neighborhoods we must engage our residents and businesses. One
example of successful partnership is the Illegal Gun Bounty program.
Since the program’s inception two years ago, anonymous tips have led to
the recovery of 215 guns, $236,433 in cash and $384,282 in drugs.
Citizen tips that lead to an arrest, a gun recovery and a weapons charge
are awarded up to $1,000. More than $93,000 in award money has been
distributed through the Illegal Gun Bounty program. One of the anonymous
tips recently led to 25 guns being seized from a convicted felon.
I encourage each of you to invest in your
neighborhood and our youth. I am proud that under Chief Demings’
leadership, in 2008 OPD formed 102 new Neighborhood Watch programs and
launched the Operation Positive Direction Mentoring program. To find out
more about either of these programs or if you would like further
information about any of the information shared above, visit