Orange County to spend $7 million cleaning up crime-riddled Pine Hills neighborhood

PINE HILLS, Fla. — Orange County leaders said Tuesday that they are planning to try a new solution to take care of the Pine Hills neighborhood’s very old crime problem.

After an especially violent nine months, the county has decided to spend $7 million to clean up the neighborhood.

In December, Markeith Loyd is accused of killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend, Sade Dixon, in Pine Hills before allegedly gunning down Orlando police Lt. Debra Clayton outside a Walmart in the neighborhood in January.

In December, detectives said a couple robbed and killed a social worker outside a Pine Hills dialysis center.

Two months earlier the owner of a Pine Hills barbershop was shot to death and that same month a teen was killed during his birthday party at a neighborhood home, officials said.

The $7 million should go a long way to help clean up Pine Hills, but there are people in the neighborhood who worry that it won’t be enough.

Julius Roman said he has had a hard time getting people from outside Pine Hills in the seats of his barbershop.

“They don’t want to feel like they’re going to go out there and get robbed,” he said. “Everybody in this community, or any community like this, are not animals.”

Michelle Owens, with the Pine Hills Neighborhood Improvement District, said she believes 1 percent of people committing crime have tainted the entire neighborhood.

“This is a safe, clean environment where you can bring your family, where you can conduct business, where you can open your own business,” she said.

Roman appreciated the cleanup and crime initiatives that have been implemented in Pine Hills, but wished there were more after-school programs and summertime activities for kids.

“Because there’s nothing here besides roaming the streets,” he said.

Owens said she has been frustrated that whenever it feels like Pine Hills is improving, something happens to drag the neighborhood back down.

“Every time it seems like we take two steps forward, something will happen and people will get up in arms again and think it’s a scary place, when it’s really not,” she said.

People like Roman hope they can get the rest of Central Florida someday to see Pine Hills through their eyes.

“Have a little hear and come out,” he said. “It’s not what everybody thinks. Everybody in this community is not going to rob you or not going to shoot you.”