HORIZON WEST – After hearing news of multiple armed home invasions in their area, residents living in the Horizon West community have decided they’ve had enough.
Recently, some neighborhoods, including The Vineyards, The Retreat at Windermere, The Addison at Windermere and Providence, have been hit with a sudden spike in crime – most of which involved armed home invasions.
Using the Nextdoor app, which allows neighbors to communicate on a private social network, some area residents urged the community take action to demand a long-term solution to the crime plaguing the area.
“I just think that a community has strength in numbers and it's about time we try to do something as a group,” said Daniel Nadeau, a concerned resident who made the Nextdoor post urging community action. “I don't know what's been tried or done before, but I just looked at this whole scenario and thought something has to give. I just think we need to start thinking about solutions and maybe take a different approach.”
‘WE ARE VULNERABLE’
Some residents suspect criminals might specifically target the Horizon West and unincorporated Orange County neighborhoods because of the deputy shortage that’s been widely reported, as well as a criminal’s experience in repeatedly escaping capture after having committed crimes in the area.
“It’s been a point made by some people – that we’re being targeted because the criminals know,” Nadeau said. “And some people don't want to further advertise the fact that we are vulnerable, but my argument to that is, I believe they are already aware that we are vulnerable. I don't think it's a secret anymore; the cat's out of the bag.”
Nadeau said he felt compelled to write the post on Nextdoor after learning of all the crimes that had occurred in his area within a six-month time span and hearing of a resident who had to wait 40 minutes for a deputy to arrive.
“There was one in Providence, which was the second break-in in a six-month span,” he said. “Over in The Retreat about two months ago, there was an attempted robbery and a shooting. And there was a drive-by shooting in The Addison. And then directly across the pond at The Vineyards, there was a home invasion at 6 a.m. where a woman was held at gunpoint while her two children sat there and watched while they ransacked her home for over an hour. She called the police, and it was a 40-minute response time.”
‘TOO CLOSE TO HOME’
About 25 residents showed up at the Dec. 2 community gathering, residents heard from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office crime privation unit for Sector 3, which includes Horizon West, as well as Sector 3 Captain Tony Marlow.
Marlow also firmly emphasized that the recent home invasions that occurred on Oct. 23, Nov. 2 and Nov. 25, were not random acts of violence and completely unrelated, despite what some may believe.
“The three home invasions that were reported by the media created a lot of panic for some of the residents out there because it gave the appearance that it was a random act of violence occurring by a group of individuals, but that just wasn't the case,” Marlow said. “And of those three cases, in two of them, the residents had been engaged in high-risk behavior and a byproduct of those activities contributed to a criminal element coming to their home. And their other one involved a family dispute.”
But unrelated or not, the incidents just felt too close to home for some of the families in the area.
“I’ve lived in this home for about three years, and I've never seen anything like this,” Nadeau said. “And this last one was just so close. That woman who was held up for an hour in her home must have been terrified; I can only imagine what that was like. This just hit so close to home for us. I can never imagine going through what these victims have gone through.”
Marlow detailed some upcoming changes for the County’s Sector 3, which is currently divided into five zones – one of which includes Pine Hills.
Marlow said the Sheriff’s Office is currently working on an initiative to adjust the zones that compose Sector 3 and remove Pine Hills area from the Sector, which will be absorbed into Sector 1.
“The challenge with Horizon West is its large size,” he said. “Right now, our deputies have to travel a lot. But we're looking to basically take Horizon West and split it into three zones, with two deputies per zone for a total of six. We believe shrinking the zones will improve our response times and also increase deputy visibility in that area.”
Marlow said deputy response times for priority-two calls, which make up about 74% of all calls, average between 8 to 12 minutes. Response times vary depending on the location of the incident, and other factors, including if another time-sensitive call comes in that is considered of higher priority, he explained.
Zone changes for Sector 3 won't take place until about mid-2019 because the Sheriff's Ofice needs time to input all the new addresses into its computer system, which entails a lot of data entry, he added.
For the time being, Marlow said he instructed deputies assigned to the Sector 3 area to increase their patrol efforts.
“Because these weren't random acts of violence and the crime numbers in that area are low, what I've asked my deputies to do is increase their patrol efforts in the area,” Marlow said. “In the Horizon West area, we have two deputy shifts that are assigned specifically to Horizon West, as well as some other specialty units that are helping with traffic and speeding-related issues.”