ORLANDO, Fla. — Just a week after the deadly shootings in Pine Hills, Orlando Police gave an update on efforts to curb violent crime in their city. Orlando Police Chief Eric Smith has implemented several initiatives since taking over as chief in September 2022.
Chief Smith said since he took office, he’s been able to reduce violent crime in the city.
Some businesses owners and managers in downtown Orlando said they’ve noticed progress.
Jason Murphy’s regular customers at City Pub in downtown Orlando mostly know him as just “Murphy.” Murphy says no matter where he’s worked, he’s always tried to make people feel welcome. Including when he worked at a club at the beach years ago.
“I would do the opening comedy bits. You know I would warm up the crowd for everybody,” said Murphy.
Murphy said a big part of customers feeling welcome in the downtown area is how safe they feel.
“You want to see on TV or in the news that the police are doing their job and making people feel safe,” said Murphy. “Even though I feel safe, perception is 90% of that.”
Shootings in Orlando, including a shooting in the Wall Street entertainment area downtown in July 2022 that injured nine people, left people expressing safety concerns. Since taking office, Chief Smith says he’s stepped up patrols, especially in downtown, which has led to a 47% increase in getting crime-related guns off the streets.
He said violent crime is down 8%, and shootings are down 12%.
And the chief says his department has made 38 gang-related arrests.
“A lot of the crimes that we’re having are coming from younger individuals, so we’re having gang activity there, and as you saw with Jones High School and some of the other issues, we’ve had - gang activity is on the rise – we’ve seen about a 22% increase in the youths committing crime,” said Chief Smith.
“That seems excessive. I wouldn’t think there’s that many gang opportunities downtown, but I’m glad they’re getting them. We don’t need any of that down here,” said Murphy. “That drives away business.”
Murphy said he hopes the police department’s renewed efforts, and so far encouraging results, will help his customers continue to feel good about coming in to City Pub.
“And if people see police officers, they generally feel safer and spend more money, bring their families down here—more than just your girlfriend or significant other—feel comfortable bringing your kids down here,” said Murphy.
Chief Smith also said his department has more than doubled the rate of solving homicides.