Police Beat 

May 21

(2009-238392) 8:26 a.m.: Hey, did you see that Buddy Dyer has a plan to fix crime in this city, at least for the summer? It's a real plan, too — none of this wistful nonsense about putting more cops on the street, or targeting the poverty and homelessness that plague this city's most dangerous areas. We're going in the opposite direction. As this column has previously detailed, the city is cutting its public safety budget by 12 percent. So in light of that, this is a surefire way to convince disadvantaged youth to shelve their gats and go to Sunday School.

And here it is, in all of its glory: A public service campaign telling kids to "Choose Peace." In case you missed the announcement last week, the city is, in the words of the Orlando Sentinel, planning to "saturate the city with thousands of posters, radio commercials and billboards depicting the new logo." Also, they're going to give out yellow wristbands emblazoned with the same catchphrase at community meetings.

The goal is to head off the uptick in violent crime that coincides with a school-free summer. And it's gonna work, too. "The power of words … you cannot underestimate that," says police chief Val Demings.

Remember a few years back when the city thought it could pray away its crime problem? We even had a cutesy name for it — Operation Armor All, as in the armor of Jesus. Back in 2007, OPD and a bunch of churches led daily prayer services asking the Almighty to make our crime problem go away. Well, Forbes just ranked us America's sixth most dangerous city, worse than New Orleans. (No. 6 with a bullet?) Does Operation Armor All's failure mean that God doesn't exist? Or just that he doesn't like Orlando?

Now, instead of appealing for divine intervention, we're going to convince young hoodlums that crime isn't hip. And to do this, we will attempt to enlist the help of Soulja Boy, and also Diddy, who of course has never had any run-ins with the law.

I appreciate as much as anyone that these are tough economic times. But the idea that a couple of billboards, some sloganeering and a lot of wristbands will substitute for the cops we're taking off the street is kind of insulting; doubly so when you consider that we are building a billionaire basketball team owner a taxpayer-funded, half-billion dollar palace.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming: "Unknown person(s) gained entry to the fenced-in storage yard of the `car paint and body` business and burglarized an Orange County Sheriff's vehicle that was located inside of a spray booth and pried open a door to the paint storage room. The person(s) then used an unknown tool to cut a hole into the roll-up garage door and open the latch to partially open the door. Once inside the person(s) removed an unknown quantity of tools and rummaged through the unlocked office of the business."

(2009-238406) 8:29 a.m.: Because Chevy dealerships aren't in enough turmoil, our suspect "entered three unlocked vehicles, removed a spare tire and jack from one car, using this to remove the tire and rims from another car. In the third car, nothing was taken."

(2009-238463) 8:59 a.m.: On Warehouse Road, "unknown person(s) smashed the hasp at the business. Nothing was taken."

(2009-238481) 9:16 a.m.: Smash-and-grab robbery at a North Lane salon.

(2009-238513) 9:42 a.m.: A homeless person grabbed a woman's cell phone and ran. The cops chased him down in Coytown.

(2009-238800) 1:09 p.m.: Some jackass tried to rob a vacant business.

(2009-238922) 2:16 p.m.: Another jackass tried to break into an occupied apartment.

(2009-239175) 5:09 p.m.: A man in his 40s with "black, spiky hair" — creepy — tried to coax a 14-year-old girl into his late model Mazda. She declined his offer. It must have been a terribly difficult decision.

May 22

(2009-240861) 3:27 p.m.: You know that television commercial where a doctor delivers a baby which proceeds to cut its own umbilical cord, and the father explains, "Well, we did stay at a Holiday Inn Express" and the mother chimes in, "About nine months ago"? Funny stuff, that. Anyway, these two guys were slightly less successful in their effort to break into a few Holiday Inn Express vending machines.

(2009-241532) 11:25 p.m.: Beer and smokes stolen from a store on South Orange Blossom Trail.

(2009-241569) 11:48 p.m.: Quasi-holdup at a 7-Eleven. The suspect "kept hand under shirt, implying a handgun," and made off with cash from the register.

Parting thought: In the 40 or so hours covered by this week's column, OPD took in roughly 3,200 new cases, or about 80 an hour. Choose Peace, y'all.


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