So far this year Orlando has recorded 33 homicides _ just three short of a 1982 record, and with almost half the year left. Continued killings at this pace could put the city made famous by Mickey Mouse uncomfortably among the top 15 for the highest per-capita murder rate in the country.
The first happened just after the New Year turned. An 18-year-old man lay bullet-riddled and dead on his street, apparently mistaken for another youth in a feud with two gun-wielding 20-somethings. Later that day it was a transient who bled to death near a homeless camp from a stab wound in the leg. Then a 22-year-old inexplicably shot in the back of the head, a 26-year-old gunned down in a drive-by and a 6- year-old apparent child abuse victim who died of severe head injuries.
"People can attribute crime to failing schools, failing families. There's a bunch of sociological things you can put your finger on," said police Sgt. Rich Ring, head of Orlando's homicide investigation unit. "All we can do as police is say the biggest things are drugs and robbery, and we're going to take action to attack those issues."
Orlando certainly isn't the only area with rising bloodshed. FBI figures from 2005 released last month showed a 2.5 percent increase in violent crime nationwide _ the largest since 1991 _ and a 4.8 percent rise in murders.
Jacksonville, Florida's murder capitol for 12 of the past 17 years, is on track to hit more than 130 homicides for the first time in more than a decade. Washington, D.C., police this month called a crime emergency amid rising incidences of robberies and armed assaults, and Detroit is on pace to hit 460 slayings, a 22 percent increase over 2005.
But this is new territory for this quickly growing tourism mecca, which ranked 107th in per-capita murders in 2004, the most recent FBI rankings available.
Besides 1982, when gang wars erupted and the crack cocaine trade boomed, and this year, Orlando has hit the 30-murder mark only once (in 19