Nearly 70 gangs in central Fla., Orange Co. officials say

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings announced Monday that there are nearly 70 gangs committing crimes on central Florida streets.

Just 17 years old, West Orange High School shooting suspect Jmorian Bell is already a documented gang member.

Deputies are trying to figure out whether those gang ties led to 15-year-old Jerodrick Smith being shot three times.

The incident prompted the county's top brass to hold a major press conference Monday.

"Here in Orange County we've documented in our law enforcement community about 67 different gangs, and over 1,200 of them in the county," Demings said. "Over 1,200 members."

9 Investigates first exposed the growing gang problem in central Florida last month, and at the time Eyewitness News couldn't get any law enforcement agency to talk about the issue.

"We do have gangs in Orange County we can't hide our heads in the sand and make believe it doesn't," Capt. Angelo Nieves with Orange County Sheriff's Office said.

Orange County's 67 gangs are just a fraction of the 1,664 gangs known to law enforcement statewide – a 1.6 percent increase from last year.

Membership is going up, too.

There are nearly 53,000 gang members in Florida, up 1.5 percent over the prior year.

Sheriff's deputies said some of those 1,200 documented members, like Bell, go to school with local kids.

"Those affiliations don't stop at the school door and that's one of the things we work very closely with," Nieves said.