MANATEE COUNTY - After a murder in Manatee County over the weekend, the murder rate there is now two times higher than it was last year, and that has some residents living in fear.
Several residents have told ABC 7 that they think it is too dangerous in parts of Manatee County to go outside at night, because of drugs, prostitution and murder.
So far, there have been 24 homicides this year. The sheriff's office says two of those will be ruled as self-defense, but regardless, those living in areas hardest hit by crime say they are living in fear and are too afraid to even leave their homes after sunset. “You got children in the area, and you definitely want to watch out for them for sure," says Earl Moulton.
Moulton lives just down the street from Manatee County's 24th murder scene of the year. That number has now doubled from 2011, and it’s got Moulton on edge. "I hunker down and stay where I mind my own business in my section over here."
Others in the same complex say Manatee County has just become too dangerous. "It worries me a little bit, but I just try and stay away from the bad stuff, try to stay in as much as I can," says Jamal James.
"When I say I live in Manatee County, it doesn't have a good reputation," says Savanna Lequia.
Elsewhere, the setting may be different, but the feelings are just the same. "No, I kinda stay in the house. I'm scared until I know this gets resolved."
One man we talked to did not want to be identified. He lives on a street that has seen a shooting and a stabbing in the past two weeks. It’s enough to make this homeowner clear out.
“You see prostitution, you see drug dealing. It’s rather open. There’s a lot of public drinking, swearing, graffiti," says Chris Lukowiak.
Lukowiak runs the Palmetto Youth Center, and says while crime is certainly a problem, organizations like his are doing what they can do keep kids from getting involved. "The more programs that we're able to offer and the more recreation that we're able to offer, our kids are staying out of trouble."
Those that live here are left wondering if things will ever get better. "It’s hard to say because, it’s always happening, I mean I don’t think it will always be like this," says Jamal.
We did call the sheriff's office, who said that when it comes to murders, it’s a problem that is extremely difficult to prevent. They say it’s not nearly as easy of a fix as say burglaries, where an increase in patrols can make a huge difference.
Residents we spoke to say they would like to see more police patrols, and more street lights. It seems that most of these crimes happen in areas that they say are pretty dark.