Gang activity on the rise in Central Florida

Gang activity is a problem that’s plaguing communities across central Florida and the Osceola County Sheriff’s office says its tackling the issue head-on.

Officials say the size of the department’s gang unit has doubled over the past decade.

“Currently, right now, we’re tracking approximately 1,400 documented gang members in Osceola County,” said

Osceola County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Twis Lizasuain. “That means that our gang detectives are in communication with them – they know where they’re at, they know what they’re doing, and we do that to aggressively stay on top of the issue.”

The sheriff’s office says two of their recent arrests involved those people. Jesus Sanchez is accused of attacking a family member and firing a gun inside a home. Earlier in the month, Angel Manuel Lopez was charged with attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. Officials say he shot a deputy in the leg as the deputy tried to detain him after a bar fight.

“It’s a serious violent offense and that’s why we wanted the public to know that individual’s criminal history,” said Lizasuain.

The sheriff’s office says there are more than 40 gangs in the county operating in the populated areas.

Members can be responsible for drug activity and violent crimes like assaults and robberies.
It’s a life they’re trying to keep kids from entering. A place like the Boys and Girls Club in Kissimmee can help provide support.

“We provide that structure, that nurturing feeling that makes them want to just forget about the struggles and worries they’re facing at home, school or in their community. Just to come and be a kid and enjoy themselves,” said Service Director Shadrick Alexander.

The Osceola County Sheriff’s gang unit also works with local schools to train teachers and administrators on gangs.