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The UCF Police Department and Orange County Sheriff's Office announced Thursday that a new initiative has been implemented to ensure safety near UCF's campus.

Sector II Noise Alcohol Patrols, or SNAP, is a program within OCSO that has been created to make certain that students and visitors in the area remain safe.

Due to the growth seen at UCF and in the East Orlando County area, there also has been an increase in crime.

"What we're working on now is a joint venture to reduce that crime, or reduce the fear of crime," UCFPD Chief Richard Beary said.

Having collaborated in April and already completing some joint operations regarding problems with alcohol and crime around campus, Beary said UCFPD officers and OCSO deputies have thus far been very successful.

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UCFPD, OCSO announce new plan for safety near campus. Video by Rachel Stuart, Central Florida Future

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said the crime in the overall Sector II area has decreased 16 percent.

However, with the amount of crime that has occurred, he said that this is still a low-crime area, relatively speaking. He also made clear that crime cases in the area do not necessarily relate to students because there are many individuals who are not affiliated with UCF.

As a result of initiating the program within recent weeks, patrols have arrested 17 people for underage drinking, responded to 21 different loud-music complaints and completed 181 checks of bars and parking lots in the area — which resulted in one arrest for DUI, two for drug possession, one for firearm possession by a convicted felon and 11 citations to UCF students who were in violation of the student rules of conduct.

Demings said within the last four to five days, there have also been several violations to the use of narcotics.

"We have arrested six individuals in the overall UCF quarter, we've served several search warrants, seized guns and drugs, cannabis, grow houses, cocaine, heroin and something that's called dab, or cannabis wax that is extracted from cannabis plants," he explained.

Berry said an upsurge of heroin has been seen all across the United States, and unfortunately in this area as well.

"There's this attitude in society that drugs are bad because they're illegal. Drugs are illegal because they're bad and they destroy people's lives," he said. "We have to make sure that we educate the public and our young people on how dangerous these drugs are."

Although Beary looks forward to continue cooperation with OCSO, he said students have to remember that it takes the actions of everybody to make an impact; students must pay attention to their surroundings and learn how to protect themselves.

Senior public administration major Jordan Kuveke said she thinks UCFPD and OCSO are taking a great initiative.

"I think it's a good partnership, it's going to improve a lot of things," she said. "I'm hopeful that they are going to crack down on some of the issues and solve a lot of the crimes that the students are being around, but not necessarily a part of."

With the recent crime in the area, Kuveke said she thinks increased patrol is going to produce great results, hopefully making more students aware of this proactive approach.

UCF Panhellenic President Meghan Kircher also said she thinks this is a great step in making sure that off campus is just as safe as on campus.

So far, Kircher has seen improvements behind The Marquee, a recently high-crime area where some off-campus fraternity houses are located.

"There's a lot more police cars patrolling that area, and I feel a lot safer back there now," said Kircher, a political science major. "I feel like within the last two to three weeks, they have done a great job with the program."

While police are taking action for safety off campus, she said she still feels much safer on campus.

"On campus I do feel very safe, there's always police presence. I feel much safer than I would off campus," she said. "Right when I cross the street at Alafaya, it's another world out there. Off campus, there's a lot more room for improvement."

However, OCSO Cpt. Steve Garrison said it is absolutely safe to walk to your class, walk down the neighborhood and walk to the store in this area.

"This is a metropolitan area and you have to use best practices," he said. "It's not just a student population outside the borders of campus. And that's one of the big things we're trying to talk about with the university."

Meeting with the fraternities living in off-campus areas, Garrison said OCSO is trying to engage students in a new form of neighborhood watch — keeping their eyes and ears open, but also knowing the area is not unsafe.

He added that the partnership has also initiated a program called Crime Free Multi-Housing to improve the overall safety and security in various apartment complexes in the area.

"Crime Free Multi-Housing is an educational program in which we go and educate all the apartment complexes about crime prevention," he said. "We can establish a network in which all the complexes and landlords communicate with each other."

Through their partnership, Beary said UCFPD and OCSO are responding to the various concerns they have heard from students and the community to create a safer environment for everyone.

"We're second in the United States for size, but we're No. 1 for public safety," Beary said.

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Rachel Stuart is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSage or email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.

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