• 9 Investigates: Sanford Neighborhood Response Unit set up to fight crime

    By: Karla Ray


    SANFORD, Fla. - 9 Investigates whether changes to a Sanford task force will be enough to stop a string of recent violent crime.

    The Sheriff’s Office has assigned two deputies to the city’s Neighborhood Response Unit.  

    Investigative reporter Karla Ray crunched the numbers to see how many cases the task force has solved since it was launched.  9 Investigates learned new federal partnerships could lead to even larger arrests.

    Read: Family, friends hold vigil for man killed in Sanford's 5th shooting this week

    It’s been a violent end to 2017 in Sanford with an innocent woman shot in a drive-by and a 16-year-old shot in the head inside his own bedroom in another drive-by.

    Sanford police Chief Cecil Smith launched the Neighborhood Response Unit five years ago, and just last week, he announced the addition of two Seminole County sheriff's deputies to the task force in order to eliminate jurisdictional barriers to solving violent crimes.

    Interactive map: Rash of shootings in Sanford

    “It gives us a little more reach than we would if we just had to look internally, as far as our jurisdiction is concerned,” Smith said.

    9 Investigates went through the Neighborhood Response Unit results since the agency started tracking the task force’s statistics.

    Read: Sanford police release surveillance video of drive-by shooting that injured teenage boy

    In 2014, the NRU made an all-time high number of arrests, 353, and seized 16 firearms.

    In 2015, the NRU put a focus on drug operations and arrested 288 people.

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    Last year, through a partnership with ATF, the NRU arrested 65 people in just one operation, targeting individuals involved in gun crimes. The group seized more than 50 firearms. In total, the NRU made 292 arrests in 2016.

    “The federal part comes in when we can see how the guns and drugs are interactive with the community,” Smith said.

    Those federal partnerships are still intact, with DEA and ATF agents “on standby” to jump into the Neighborhood Response Unit as needed. Smith points out, though, that his officers can’t tackle the violent crimes alone.

    Read: Sanford boy continues to recover as police investigate 3 drive-by shootings

    “For us to get to a point where the community is completely comfortable coming forward takes time, and unfortunately, we're going to have hiccups,” Smith said.

    Overall, crime is down in Sanford, but homicides hit a high in 2016.

    Read: ‘Keep your children close,' says mother of teenage boy fatally stabbed in Sanford

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