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Unsolved murders from 2013 still haunt Orlando

Tamika Bryant is still waiting for justice after the shooting death of her husband, Herman “Lil Man” Brant; also, brief profiles of three other unsolved murders from 2013

Photo: Photos courtesy Tamika Bryant, License: N/A

Photos courtesy Tamika Bryant

Photo: , License: N/A

But statistics tell a different story. In 2014, a data-collection website known as NeighborhoodScout.com labeled Orlando No. 81 in a list of the 100 most dangerous cities in the nation. It’s joined there by 10 other Florida cities, including Miami, Daytona Beach and Homestead (which was the most violent in the state, at No. 18 on the list).

The data are based on city population and crimes reported to the FBI by local agencies. According to the same website, residents here have a 1 in 13 chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime, and victims come at a rate of 78 per 1,000 residents.

With a population close to 250,000, Orlando is proportionately more violent than many cities of similar size. While the state of Florida averaged 487 violent crimes per 100,000 people, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report Crime in the United States report for 2012, Orlando average more than 1,000 violent crimes per 100,000 people during that same period.

In the first six weeks of 2014, there were already a half-dozen homicides. Most of these killings have resulted in an arrest – police have five suspects in custody for these murders, to date – and Orlando Police Department spokesman Sgt. James Young notes that in an annual review, the Orlando Police Department found the city’s homicide rate had dropped 30 percent between 2012 and 2013. (There were eight more murders in 2012 than there were in 2013.)

Young attributes this trend to OPD’s efforts to remove “crime guns” from the street, harsher sentencing for career criminals and increased community involvement.

“The community-police partnerships are always effective in reducing crime,” Young said. He added that he wasn’t familiar with NeighborhoodScout.com or its numbers and therefore couldn’t provide an informed comment on Orlando’s low score on the site’s crime index. He did, however, point out that the department has a strong record when it comes to tracking down murderers. “It should be noted that OPD has a homicide solve rate of about 75 percent,” Young said. “The national average homicide solve rate is 62 percent.”

But for Tamika Bryant, those percentages mean little. She said that after a year of waiting, she’s frustrated. “I won’t say that it would give me closure,” she said, “but it would help knowing that my husband’s killer isn’t walking around free.”

Detectives from Orlando Police were kind and helpful, answering her phone calls and any questions she posed – “These are never just numbers to us, each is a person,” Young said. “Our detectives work diligently to solve these cases and provide answers to the victims’ families” – but Tamika has grown cynical now that so much time has passed without anyone answering for her husband’s death.

“You kind of lose faith after it’s been so long,” she said. “I kind of think that it’s been swept under the rug at this point. I mean, my husband’s murder will probably never be solved.”

After Lil Man was killed, police found a stolen van ditched and ablaze about a mile away on Edgemoor Avenue, as well as spent shell casings on nearby Cornelia Court from shots fired hours earlier. Detectives don’t know if it all connects, though.

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