“Hey Bungalower, what’s up with the BLACK FENCES that block College Park from Parramore?”
– Bungalower Reader
In 1994, cut-through traffic in south College Park, just north of Colonial Drive, was seen as a major contributing factor to crime in the area – according to AreaVibes.com, College Park has a D+ for Crime Rates based on 2018 stats. In an effort to protect the residents who live along the northern edge of Colonial, Orlando officials decided to wall off five neighborhood roads to traffic.
The City, with approval from the residents in the area, closed off a number of streets between Edgewater Drive to Ellwood Avenue and Colonial Drive to Lake Adair with a series of fences. One year later Colonial Drive was widened to five lanes – an added buffer between two estranged neighborhoods.
City staff erected the fences at varied points on each road, creating deadends to block the traffic and force commuters to use Westmoreland Drive, Edgewater Drive, and Orange Blossom Trail to travel north and south.
The effort was meant to be temporary, to allow the City of Orlando to conduct studies to see how the closures would affect the flow of traffic in the neighborhood and to measure any reductions in crime.
The nearby Spring Lake neighborhood, also located on the northern side of Colonial Drive, had a number of its streets sectioned off from cut-through traffic but in their case, they used actual walls instead of fencing, as seen in our lead photo above. It’s important to note that only southward-flowing streets have been shut off to cut-through traffic.
Orlando Sentinel shared a story in 2003 concerning a movement in Arlington Heights, a neighborhood in Parramore that runs along the southern edge of Colonial Drive just across the street from College Park, where residents were petitioning the City to assist them with their own fences to shut down streets there. However, sitting councilmember Daisy Lynum, told them that fences don’t solve crime and Council rejected the idea, and when questioned about the College Park and Spring Lake fences said, “I don’t live in College Park. I don’t represent them.”
Deterring crime through design can be effective, and research has shown that closing neighborhood streets and alleys can actually prevent crime as there is a proven relationship between street access and crime rates, as more frequently traveled streets are more vulnerable to crime. Burglars are known to avoid cul-de-sacs and closely-knit neighborhoods where they are more likely to be seen.
Despite the numbers though, physical barriers to crime still don’t address their underlying causes and often just provide short-term relief and they can be seen to completely divide communities along social and racial lines. Design answers like fences and enhanced public lighting need to be accompanied by other measures to affect longterm change, including active resident involvement, tougher tenant-screening policies, and sometimes an increased police presence.
But the short answer to the question, Bungalower Reader, is that they were put there by the City of Orlando to help deter crime from outside of the, predominantly white, neighborhood.