Courtesy of Orlando Sentinel

 

Plot the addresses of the most recent killings in or near Pine Hillson a map and you’ll see a cluster of six points all within about a four-mile stretch.

Six.

In eight weeks.

Jeffery Webb, 47; Kendra La Sheka Lewis, 27; Gregory Whitbeck, 55; Howard Roger III, 31; Brian Berry, 43; Terrance Givens, 16.

They were so much more than just the points that mark the places where they were gunned down.

A mother. A businessman. A social worker. A teen at his own birthday party.

But those points also tell us something important.

In case the message isn’t already clear to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, this neighborhood needs help.

“It leaves me numb … it leaves me heartbroken,” says Sandra Fatmi, president of the Pine Hills Community Council who also runs an after-school mentoring program at Evans High School. “I’ve never seen anything like this … It’s a rise in anger in our young people. It’s a rise in no love, no family unit.”

No, a mayor and a sheriff can’t fix broken homes.

But they can use their voices and their budgets to call for change. Real change.

For years now, we’ve heard muffled cries for a new approach to the problem of youth gun violence in Pine Hills and other Central Florida neighborhoods.

Little has changed. In fact, it’s getting worse.

Demings, who met with reporters on Monday, noted 12 homicides in the Pine Hills area during the past 12 months with half of the victims under age 18. He expects recommendations from his violent crime task force soon.

Some of those recommendations, he said, may include elements from programs such as Operation Ceasefire, which have been successful in places like Boston and Oakland, Calif.

I mentioned the Ceasefire method in a column about eight months ago after a series of shootings, including a 9-year-old girl injured when a bullet came through a window as she slept in south Orlando.

In short, the programs identify the people most at risk for committing violence and lets them know that shootings and other illegal activity won’t be tolerated.

Every shooting unleashes a swarm of police activity in the area along with arrests, higher bails and other actions such as seizing drug proceeds.

Simultaneously, though, it is a mission to make sure those same at-risk people who stay out of trouble can finish school, get connected with potential employers or even just have a place to go for a hot meal.

Some programs pay at-risk youth for meeting regularly with mentors or meeting other benchmarks.

You can gripe about paying people to do what they should be doing in the first place.

But we’re already paying to feed and house violent offenders in jail.

I would much rather pay someone to stay out of trouble, go to school or work and one day, perhaps, become a mentor to someone else.

“We have to figure out ways to isolate the troublemakers,” said Tim Haberkamp, who still runs the restaurant his parents bought in 1966 at the corner of Pine Hills and Silver Star roads — first a Burger Chef and now a Hardee’s.

Haberkamp is president of the Pine Hills Neighborhood Improvement District and, with Fatmi and others, is part of a core group of volunteers who have been pushing for years for better business development and other changes.

He pointed to the 16- and 17-year-olds arrested Sunday in the shooting death of Lewis, the mother who died at the Citgo station last week not far from his restaurant as her young daughter sat in the backseat of her car.

“How do you get a 16- or 17-year-old running around with a gun?” he asked. “Why is that even a question?”

Fatmi says part of the reason goes back to “anger” and a never-ending cycle.

Some offenders, she said, made mistakes early in their lives, went to prison and now can’t find jobs. So they return to crime.

“We’re sitting in our nice big homes with our families and we don’t know what’s going on on the streets,” she said. “It’s a whole different world.”

Just another reason why it’s time to try a different approach to ending gun violence.

Let me tell you the truth about Pine Hills. I would say the city is at least 70% safe. That means there are many communities that you can live in with homeowners who are very responsible citizens – black owned communities and they are thriving. But the news is right. There is a cluster in Pine Hills that needs desperate attention. The problem area is really a 6 mile radius.  It begins at Silver Star and John Young all the way from Pine Hills Road to Hiawassee. After a mile or so from either direction heading north or south on Pine Hills Road, the violence ends or is considerably less.

This community used to be predominantly white. You could walk the streets at night with no worries. The name coined for this city by the locals is Crime Hills. And many blacks don’t like that saying. But it’s true. There are central parts of the city that violence is prevalent. There’s no point in sugar coating it. Pretending that there’s no problem doesn’t solve the problem.

It’s one thing when the crime is on the outskirts. But these crimes are residential and commercial. Shopping centers and barber shops are being shot up. These are places where the general public visit. So don’t get upset with the truth. Bullets don’t have names on them. And for those who want to get upset, tell your story to those innocent folks who died senselessly.

 

Ok so technically after doing research I realized that I’m a little bit off. Half this city it’s fucked up. Mind you guys I don’t go there often so I was under the impression that it was the way it was when I left years ago. LOL fuck that. This city is only 12 miles and if 6 miles of it is the cluster that’s bad, that’s horrible! Oh gosh what was I thinking? That’s like eating half a rotten apple. Ugh.

Maybe there’s too much color?

Hills is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Orlando and is a minority majority community. The populations of African-Americans and Hispanics is reported being significantly above the state of Florida’s average. In addition the foreign-born population is also above the state average. There are large Caribbean populations of Haitians, Jamaicans, and Puerto Ricans. There is also a large Asian population of Vietnamese, Koreans, and Cambodians. This diversity is evident along Pine Hills Road where many immigration offices, Caribbean and Asian restaurants, and West Indian grocery stores abound.

While locals perceive Pine Hills to be a lower-class community, several areas exist where the median family income exceeds the area average. Subdivisions with expensive single-family homes are found in Rosemont. Expensive homes are also located off Balboa Drive near Good Homes Road in the Rose Hill subdivision, and along north Powers Drive. A replica of the GracelandMansion is located off North Hiawassee Road.

So the thing is, I think they need their own police department. Even though I hate the police, they need something to help these teens. Perhaps truancy officers or some type of community officer.

But what do you do for gun toting teens?

They are already pissed. They are already rebellious. Obviously they don’t have good parenting or don’t respect authority. What do you do?

We aren’t talking about displaced convicts. We are talking about children with guns! Children that may be in gangs. Treat them like adults?