City Hall is continuing to crack down on the “anything goes” scene in downtown Orlando following a dramatic spike in crime following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following a shooting near Wall Street that sent seven people to the hospital, the mayor hosted a press conference on August 1 to share that his office would be rolling out six checkpoints at key access points to enter the Central Business District on the busiest nights of the week, Fridays and Saturdays, to help frighten off any “bad actors” looking for trouble downtown (at least over to other parallel streets and to take the heat off of Orange Avenue).
The access points, located between Pine Street and Washington Street along Orange Avenue, are staffed by officers and police dogs trained to detect weapons as well as metal detectors. A city spokesperson shared that police officers will be seizing firearms from anyone found to be holding them illegally but would let individuals with concealed carry permits continue on their way.
The access points were just the latest in a string of new initiatives coming out of City Hall to try to address crime and unruly crowds in downtown Orlando, following an $800,000 increase to the city’s downtown crime prevention strategies which helped to pay for more code enforcement officers downtown to police unpermitted street furniture, add more security cameras and license readers, and have a more visible police presence.
The next series of protocols are looking at three main areas of focus: outdoor noise levels, parking lot safety, and overall safety inside downtown bars and clubs. A new set of ordinances is set for their first reading on Monday, August 15, and includes requiring parking lots that are open past 10 p.m. to be well lit and have security guards onsite or to be cordoned off if not in use, as well as limits on any and all outdoor music and speakers. If approved, they will be set to be rolled out next month.
Those regulations will also include a new Late Night Special Use Permit that all new businesses moving into downtown Orlando, or those that have a change of ownership, will need to get if they plan to stay open past midnight. In order to get a permit, business owners will need to show proof that they have satisfactory security plans in place and crime prevention improvements to help keep their guests and their staff safe in the wee hours of the morning.
The shift away from a Downtown Entertainment District towards something more tourist/office/family-friendly is certainly in the works, as more soundbites from civic leaders seem to parrot Commissioner Gray, who recently shared with WFTV that he thought there were too many bars downtown, saying, “Nighttime in downtown Orlando is all about bad behavior. We’re pouring too much alcohol.”
A city employee in the Economic Development offices at City Hall recently shared with Bungalower that plans are in the works to actively incentivize non-bar uses in the downtown area, much like the recent $307,000 grant the mayor’s office gave to Orlando Fringe to move into the former home of Mad Cow Theater.
And as these changes roll out, scenes like the one below will become much more rare.