ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Florida has the 19th highest rate of gun violence in the nation, a number that has gotten worse since 2010.
Data shows much of the violent crime is being committed by 17 to 25-year-olds.
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Recently, both the Orlando police chief and the Orange County sheriff said that the biggest issues is repeat offenders and this revolving door.
Victims like Fernando Washington are asking for the violence to stop. His mom, Angela Washington, was killed by bullet that were meant for someone else last month.
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He pleaded with the community in an interview with Channel 9 saying, “It’s got to stop. It’s got to stop. We have to do something other than talk about it.”
But it hasn’t stopped. In fact, in Orlando and Orange County there have already been 15 homicides this year.
While Orange County Sheriff John Mina said there is a piece of the puzzle still missing, which is the piece that comes after his deputies make an arrest.
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“You’ve seen us engage with this community probably more than any other agency in the state of Florida,” Mina said. “We have a number of community programs. We attend hundreds of community meetings every year. We engage and build trust with our youth in a constant state. And so I’m all for other systems that other areas have done, like, you know, violence interrupters or Credible Messengers. Yeah, bring them in, bring them into the community. But again, a huge part of preventing gun violence is enforcing the law, the laws that we have on the books and incarceration, that’s just part of it.”
The sheriff has been critical of State Attorney Monique Worrell and her office for months saying too many repeat offenders are still on the streets. Worrell defended her office saying prosecutors are doing their jobs, but admits they are dealing with staffing issues, saying, “I’m currently running at a deficit of 38 vacancies in my office. But we’re still being criticized for not doing our jobs.”
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Meanwhile, for Orlando police, Chief Eric Smith said his officers are out there everyday pulling hundreds of guns of the street, adding up to 500 in just five months. Cut he too believes community engagement and criminal arrests only go so far. We asked him what the solutions could be.
“I think the biggest solution is, and it’s just my opinion, is there has to be, we have to hold people accountable,” Smith said.
Worrell’s office provided Channel 9 with the following statement:
“There is a much different standard between simply making an arrest and what is ultimately required to try a case and obtain a conviction. An officer or deputy only needs probable cause to make an arrest. They are simply acknowledging that a crime probably occurred and the individual who they’ve arrested probably committed that crime. It is the job of prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was indeed committed, and that the individual arrested for the crime actually committed it.
In order to convict, we must have evidence and often this evidence comes in the form of witness testimony. What we have often seen in cases of gun violence is that as we are preparing to proceed with a criminal case, many witnesses are no longer willing to cooperate with the prosecution, which makes it impossible to prove the case.
In an effort to address the increase in violent crime being committed by children, State Attorney Worrell has introduced a legislative proposal to overhaul our juvenile justice system. Currently, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice’s system is not equipped to address the level of violent crime being committed by young people today. When a case is resolved in the juvenile justice system, jurisdiction is relinquished to the DJJ. This means that judges and prosecutors do not have control over the length of time offending juveniles remain in a program. The current system only allows for those under 19 to remain in programs for a maximum of three years and rarely are they kept that long.
The proposal set forth by State Attorney Worrell would change that timeframe, provide stronger penalties, and allow for more influence by judges and prosecutors.”
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