The City of Orlando, faced with a recent spike in gun violence in the Central Business District, is looking to enforce a number of crime-preventing strategies to get people out of the streets.
City Council voted to approve a number of policies last week, including pulling the temporary policies that allowed for sidewalk cafes without a permit put forth at the beginning of the pandemic. Council also voted in favor of shutting down outdoor dining between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. in an effort to reduce the number of people in the public right-of-way.
“We believe one of the contributing factors to the atmosphere is that there are a lot of individuals coming downtown who are not patronizing businesses. They’re not going to restaurants, they’re not going to bars. They’re instead just gathering and hanging outside on the streets,”– ORLANDO MAYOR DYER
A 34-year-old army veteran was shot while simply trying to walk through a crowd of people in downtown Orlando on May 2, by someone he had never even met before – Shaun Engram Jr., a 25-year-old Marine vet, who has been charged with first-degree murder.
Gun violence has reportedly spiked by 23% from January to May compared to last year in downtown Orlando – though how those numbers connect to outdoor dining hasn’t been made abundantly clear.
“There must be eyes on upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street … They cannot turn their backs or blank sides on it and leave it blind.”– OUR HERO JANE JACOBS
The Downtown Development Board’s executive director, Thomas Chatmon, told Bungalower that he agrees with the mayor’s strategy to clamp down on the “downtown party” atmosphere that has been pervasive in the Central Business District of late. Stating that they need to make sure people are safe when they come downtown and saying that, “… if you do something bad [downtown], they’ll catch you.” Insisting that downtown Orlando shouldn’t be a place to get away with bad behavior.
Chatmon shared that while the City will be reducing temporary outdoor dining options to help reduce overcrowding on Orlando sidewalks, they will also be spending more on other crime prevention strategies; $800,000 more to be exact. That number includes a budget for more code enforcement officers to clamp down on unpermitted street furniture in the right-of-way, more cameras, more license readers in the streets and in the parking garages, and a more visible OPD presence in the downtown CRA. This follows a $6 million bump in police spending last September.
Another restriction on the books, to be voted on at a future council meeting, is a moratorium on street-facing outdoor speakers, which will likely be made effective by June 7.
Strategies that have not been mentioned at this time include not closing portions of Orange Avenue to cars on the weekends or incentivizing non-bar uses like the DDB has done previously with the downtown Publix grocery store in South Eola and the Plaza Cinema to promote more retail/restaurant uses downtown in currently vacant storefronts and bars.
It’s also unclear how these restrictions will be imposed on businesses that are not inside the Central Business District and whether or not the surrounding Main Street Districts, which have not experienced an increase in gun violence, will not be allowed to continue with expanded outdoor, socially-distant seating without a formal permit.
In related news, the role of Orlando’s Nighttime Economy Manager is currently vacant following the departure of the city’s inaugural “Bar Czar,” Dominique Greco, in March 2021. The position, when staffed, is responsible for overseeing the needs of Orlando’s downtown nightlife scene and liaising between the city, the business community, and the public – something that would definitely come in handy right now.