Orange County sits in the approximate center of Florida, its location primarily associated with Orlando and the surrounding areas. The County's central location lies mid-way between Jacksonville and Miami and two of the state's major highways. Interstate 4 and the Florida Turnpike intersect through the center of the County. Tourism forms the core of Orange County's economy, with several of the nation's most popular theme parks lying partially within the County limits. The County is serviced by the Orlando International Airport, which handles more than 25 million travelers annually. In 1995, the population of Orange County was 757,897 persons. There are nearly 750 miles of roadways within Orange County. Of these roads, 425 miles are County maintained, while the remainder fall under the state of Florida's jurisdiction. The numbers of licensed drivers within the County as of January 1 of each year from 1990 through 2000 were provided by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Division of Driver Licenses. (Figures were not available for 1993.) As Figure 36 below indicates, there has been a large increase in the number of licensed drivers within Orange County over the past decade.
Figure 36: Orange County Licensed Drivers, 1999-2000
The Orange County Sheriff's Office is a full-service sheriff's office, providing police enforcement throughout the County including the Orlando-metro area. There are more than 1,200 sworn officers currently employed by the Orange County Sheriff's Office and approximately 800 more civilian employees. The Department is split into the following six divisions: Operational Services, Court Services, Community Policing, Field Services, Special Investigations, and Criminal Investigations. The Field Services division works in conjunction with a specialized patrol unit as primary enforcers of traffic violations. The specialized patrol includes the motorcycle, DUI and K-9 units, which have approximately 18 officers each and will soon be expanded to 27 officers.
As with many sheriff departments, traffic traditionally has not been an enforcement priority. Changes have occurred over the last few years, though, that have prompted the Orange County Sheriff's Office to concentrate more fully on the traffic needs of their communities. The Sheriff has encountered strong public involvement in the traffic safety needs of several individual communities over the last 3 to 4 years. Traffic complaints have increased steadily, and it is reported that the top homeowner and property-owner complaints are all traffic-related issues. The Sheriff responded to these calls for greater police presence from the communities by allowing his traffic units to become more aggressive in their enforcement of traffic laws. Any complaint that is received by the Department is attended to within two weeks and is granted periodic follow-ups after that. The Sheriff's Office has worked in conjunction with the Orlando Police Department to try and curb the traffic safety problems that have been increasing throughout the county as a result of increased population and the continually growing number of motorists in the area.
The two main concerns for this Department are school-zone speed enforcement and DUI. The Sheriff's Office heavily patrols school areas through the months classes are in session and, reportedly, officers are successful in their enforcement efforts. Most school years start off with approximately 1,000 tickets issued per month; but after many months of police presence in these areas, the number of tickets drops to approximately 200 per month. In the summer months, when school-zone enforcement is not as much of a priority, the Department focuses on special enforcement needs such as railroad crossings, child restraint checkpoints and red traffic light patrols. Many of these special initiatives are conducted in conjunction with other police agencies within the County or with the Florida Highway Patrol. The Orange County Sheriff's Office pursues a limited amount of grant money. These grants are focused primarily on child restraint enforcement and training needs.
Most equipment for the specialized patrol unit is budget funded, rather than purchased with outside funds. Currently, the Department uses radar, laser and VASCAR (time/distance measurement equipment) technology. All DUI vehicles are equipped with video capabilities.
The Department recognizes aggressive driving as a growing traffic safety concern, but has not yet fully explored the possibilities of enforcement against aggressive driving actions. At this point, the department has had only informal anti-aggressive driving programs, but hopes to look at this issue more closely within the year.
The following data were retrieved from the Florida Uniform Traffic Citation Statistics for the Sheriff's Office in Orange County. Figure 35 shows the numbers of total traffic-related violations for 1989 through 1997. There has been a downward trend in traffic enforcement by the Sheriff's Office in Orange County, as measured by citation volume. Most of the categories and types of traffic citations show a sharp decline in 1992. When asked about this decrease, our contact could not be certain of the cause. Factors that were discussed as possible hindrances to traffic enforcement included many things, from weather concerns, to parades, to political motorcades. Orange County's location obviously makes them susceptible to hurricanes and other weather concerns. These acts of nature place a burden on the Department's ability to focus on traffic enforcement. Similarly, the Department is responsible for any political travel in the area. Reportedly, the Orange County Sheriff's Office is one of only three Departments in the country certified to escort the presidential motorcade and, therefore, officers are utilized when any politician is traveling within the State. Escort work is very labor intensive and will pull many officers off traffic details, therefore creating a lull in all traffic enforcement activities. However, we also compared the number of total traffic violations recorded by the Florida Highway Patrol and handled by that agency within Orange County. The trends of the two agencies mirrored each other as illustrated in Figure 37.
Figure 37: Orange County Sheriff and Florida Highway Patrol (Orange County)
Total Traffic Violations, 1989-1997
Figure 38 shows the total traffic violations split into criminal, non-criminal and non-moving violations. The non-criminal violations category includes speeding, careless driving, and all moving infractions (e.g., improper turning, following too closely, running a red light). The criminal violations category includes DUI, reckless, fleeing, leaving a crash scene, and various driver licensing violations. The non-moving violations category includes safety belt violations, unsafe equipment, and no proof of insurance, along with bicycle and pedestrian infractions.
Figure 38: Orange County Sheriff's Office - Violation Categories, 1989-1997
Next, we separated violations with the largest numbers of citations. Figure 39 shows speeding violations recorded by the Sheriff's Office and by the Florida Highway Patrol operating within Orange County. It reflects a slight increase in speeding violations since 1992, but current levels do not reflect the peak observed in 1990.
Orange County Sheriff's Office and Florida Highway Patrol -
Speeding Violations, 1989-1997
Figure 40 shows the combined violations concerning driver licenses (e.g., expired, suspended, revoked).
Figure 40: Orange County Sheriff's Office - Driver License Violations, 1989-1997
Figure 41 shows the number of DUI violations in Orange County from 1989-1997 which were handled by the Sheriff's Office and the Florida Highway Patrol. Similar numbers of cases were handled by both LEAs and the trends are similar. While there is a distinctive downward trend, the sharp decline in 1992 which is apparent in other types of violations is not evident here. The decline actually began in 1991 as it had for driver license violations, often a related offense.
Figure 41: Orange County Sheriff's Office and Florida Highway Patrol
(Orange County) - DUI Violations, 1989-1997
Figure 42 and Figure 43 depict safety belt citations.
Figure 42: Orange County Sheriff's Office - Total Safety Belt Violations, 1989-1997
Figure 43 shows the number of adult safety belt violations versus child restraint violations.
Figure 43: Orange County Sheriff's Office - Safety Belt Violations by Type, 1989-1997
Figure 44 shows the number of citations issued for reckless and careless driving combined. Reckless driving in Florida is a criminal violation resulting in arrest, and careless driving is handled as moving violation with a citation.
Figure 44: Orange County Sheriff's Office - Reckless/Careless Violations, 1989-1997
Finally, Figure 45 shows the number of reckless driving violations handled by the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Highway Patrol in Orange County. More violations are handled by the Sheriff's Office and, despite a peak in 1993, both trend lines are relatively flat.
Figure 45: Orange County Sheriff's and Florida Highway Patrol (Orange County) -
Reckless Violations, 1989-1997
While the Orange County Sheriff's Office reports it is becoming more heavily involved in traffic law enforcement, and despite an increase in the number of licensed drivers, the actual numbers of citations issued for traffic violations combined have decreased. However, citations for speeding offenses have increased, and this is the area which was reported to have been the target of the most complaints by residents. The Orange County Sheriff's officers have responded to their concerns by stepping up enforcement of speed laws. The pattern of DUI arrests has paralleled the decline since 1991 seen with FHP, even though it is reported by the Sheriff's Office to be an emphasis area.