Sanford unveils plan targeting violent crime

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SANFORD, Fla. - Sanford city leaders said they have come up with a solution to cut down on the growing number of shootings.

Leaders unveiled a plan on Thursday to create the Neighborhood Response Unit, which will target Sanford's most violent criminals.

Sanford residents told WFTV they were sick of seeing crime scene tape in their neighborhood after a rash of recent shootings.

"It's getting crazy out here. You got to be careful going out your door. You don't know what's going to go down. There have been so many shootings going on lately in Sanford. People are very afraid," said resident Beatrice Holly.

A man was shot at the Seminole Garden apartments Tuesday night.

It's a situation his neighbor, Marie Williams, has been in firsthand.

Williams said she was caught in crossfire a year ago, and a bullet grazed her head.

"If I would have put my body out there, they would have shot me all up, because there were bullet holes all in the wall," Williams said.

Sanford police said they have been to the apartments 40 times in the past six months for burglaries, assaults, shootings and sex crimes.

Officials said it's one of the areas the Neighborhood Response Unit will watch closely.

"You just walk out your door and you don't know what's going to happen," Williams said.

Police said their Neighborhood Response Unit plans to curb violent crimes across town by gathering intelligence and using surveillance techniques.

The Goldsboro neighborhood will be one of the crime hot spots the new unit will focus on at night.

Cecelia Frison said her home was shot up twice last fall because of the feuding factions who have been randomly opening fire. She said they pumped dozens of bullets into homes and she and her children were home both times.

"Everybody was so scared. I was scared to go to work. I was scared to walk around in my house because I thought they were going to come back and start shooting again. It was real scary," said Frison.

Frison said she was glad to hear about the police department's new Neighborhood Response Unit.

Police said the unit will track down what they call "urban terrorists," those who don't care who they hit with their barrages of bullets.

"They'll be in the area when the event happens and they'll be taking action on it as a group sometimes. That's a powerful statement and a great tool," said Capt. Jim McAuliffe of the Sanford Police Department.

The unit will have two supervisors and 10 officers.

Sanford's crackdown on violent crime comes as the police department continues the search for a gunman wanted in connection with 14 different shootings.

Eric Menefee and Albert Thompson were taken into custody on Wednesday for their alleged involvement in the shootings.

Police said Menefee and Thompson, along with 17-year-old Jamiroquan McGill, were behind the string of shootings since October.

Police said McGill is still on the run and is wanted on attempted murder charges.