A blue-ribbon panel of Orlando community, business, and law-enforcement officials appointed with great urgency four months ago to help curtail escalating crime needs two more months to complete its work, says the Orlando Sentinel. The panel must still still rank dozens of short-term, intermediate and long-term proposals — and determine how much they will cost. Since the task force began, the number of murders has been greatly curtailed by pressure from the Orlando Police Department’s three new tactical teams formed in September to focus on violent neighborhoods.
Orlando has logged 45 murders so far this year, shattering its all-time record of 36 in 1982. The tactical teams have made 590 arrests and seized 41 guns. University of Central Florida sociologist Jay Corzine said the murder spike’s causes remain unclear. Handguns were used in 70 percent of Orlando’s killings this year, 10 points higher than the national average. “The odds are significantly higher in 2006 than 2005 that a [murder] suspect will be 20 and younger,” Corzine said. The task force will have recommendations to counter truancy, unsupervised at-risk kids after school and during summer breaks, and felons released from prison without life or job skills. The group also suggests ways police could better combat street crime and drug organizations.