Orlando security proposals move forward, to mixed reviews

ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando city commissioners easily passed a series of proposals Monday designed to increase security and safety in the downtown area after dark, setting up a final vote later this month.


The reactions from commissioners and business owners was generally favorable, with each side hoping to turn around the area’s reputation as an unsafe place to visit. Up to 30,000 people crowd Orange Avenue, Wall Street and Church Street on Friday and Saturday nights, officials reported. The city’s immediate step of increasing police presence downtown on certain nights of the week has proved popular among both visitors and workers.

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Still, some reservations came out during an initial comment session.

The first proposal was the least controversial. It would tighten requirements for parking lots and garages accessible late at night, mandating lighting upgrades and landscaping that didn’t allow people in the facilities to hide what they were doing.

Additionally, facilities must be staffed by someone who can oversee what happens there, preventing people from gathering and causing disturbances.

The second proposal adds a special permit for new businesses which intend to be open late into the night and morning. To get the permit, business owners must show city staff they will abide by safety and security laws, including submitting security plans in writing. The idea has drawn minor, but muted protests from downtown workers concerned that the city could employ heavy-handed tactics to prevent bars from opening.

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The third, and most controversial proposal, increases the noise level outdoor speakers would be allowed to play music, after a study found the ambient noise level of downtown often exceeded the existing limit. However, it would add an enforcement method that made some business owners pause.

“I don’t think noise equals violence,” one woman said. “It’s guns equals violence and noise equals life.”

Commissioners agreed the noise itself wasn’t an issue and tried to assure business owners that it only regulated outdoor speakers from a certain distance. They said loud music brought people downtown to party alongside the bar patrons. It was these last-minute visitors who often caused the problems, officials claimed.

“This is, I think, just the beginning of some steps that we are trying out to hopefully improve the safety of everyone who visits downtown,” Commissioner Bakari Burns said. “I think some of those may be low hanging fruit… Again, it’s just the beginning.”

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Officials added that the three proposals did not stem from any recent incidents of violence. All three, they said, had been in the works for months before being introduced this week.

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