Florida Law Enforcement agencies have long followed a policy of denying the existence of gangs in the state, even though it is at odds with the opinion of the Florida Attorney General’s office [pdf alert] Florida police agencies say gang members use any information released about the crimes they commit to glamorize their lifestyles and attract new members. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office generally follows that policy.

That policy, it seems, is failing.Hardly a day goes by when there is not a reported shooting in the Central Florida area, and many other violent crimes go unreported. Due to the long standing policy of ignoring gang related crimes, it is impossible to get an accurate picture of gang related crime in the area, but I can tell you from personal experience that it is growing.

The frequency of gang related graffiti is growing, as is the frequency of gang member sightings. The Outlaws Motorcycle gang has a clubhouse not far from where I live. A couple of friends of mine were recently riding their motorcycles and were stopped by five Outlaws, who told them that no one is allowed to ride motorcycles in the area as a part of any motorcycle riding club, unless that riding club paid dues to the Outlaws. They then demanded that my friends remove the leather jackets, and pay a fine of $50 cash on the spot. Outnumbered 5-2 by armed gang members, they paid.

The Latin Kings have staked out Poinciana as their territory, as well as parts of Kissimmee. The Bloods own other parts of Kissimmee. Saint Cloud has problems with white gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood. Orlando has similar gang and violent crime problems.

Your odds of being a victim of a violent crime in Osceola County are 1 in 100. In Orange County, the odds double to 1 in 50.Obviously, there are things you can do to reduce those odds. Don’t go into bad neighborhoods like Pine Hills (aka Crime Hills), Paramore, McLaren Circle, Waterway Village, and other notoriously unsafe areas. Don’t be a gang member, sell drugs, or engage in other highly risky behavior.

It is more likely that you will be a victim of a violent crime than involved in a car crash or a house fire with a fatality.You don’t hesitate to wear a seat belt, or own smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and other safety devices, yet the odds favor your using a firearm to defend your life more often than any of those other items.