Florida city bans guns for neighborhood watch volunteers

File photos of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman (R) who has been charged with second-degree murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin (L) are seen in this combination photograph. Credit: Reuters
File photos of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman (R) who was found not guilty in the second-degree murder of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin (L) are seen in this combination photograph.
Credit: Reuters

The Florida city where neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin is changing the rules on how civilian patrols can operate to help prevent a recurrence and revive the program’s reputation.

The new rules, to be released at a community meeting on November 5 in Sanford, Florida, will state explicitly that residents acting under the authority of neighborhood watch may not carry a firearm or pursue someone they deem suspicious.

“Neighborhood watch was always intended to be a program where you observe what is going on and report it to police. In light of everything that has gone on, that’s what we’re really going to go back and push. That’s what this program is and that’s all it is,” said Shannon Cordingly, spokeswoman for the Sanford Police Department.

Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, was acquitted in July in the February 2012 death of Martin.

The prosecution accused him of racially profiling Martin, a high school student visiting from Miami, and then pursuing, confronting and shooting him.

The jury considered Zimmerman’s self-defense claim in light of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which rescinded the duty of citizens to try to retreat from a confrontation.

“People in the community are nervous to join a group (neighborhood watch) that was tarnished in the media and got a bad image with everything that happened. We really want to put those fears to rest and get the community going on the program,” Cordingly said.

Neighborhood watch was formally organized in 1972 under the National Sheriffs’ Association.

It began as a response to the notorious 1964 murder of Catherine Susan “Kitty” Genovese, whose cries for help as she was attacked outside her Queens apartment were ignored by dozens of neighbors. One was famously quoted as saying she didn’t want to get involved.

Today’s neighborhood groups often are untrained and unsupervised by police, vary in their dedication to the job, and remain unregistered with either the sheriffs’ association or local police agencies.

In 2011, when Zimmerman organized a watch group in his gated neighborhood, Sanford police offered a handbook and a presentation by a police volunteer explaining the role of the group in helping deter crime.

Sanford’s new rules are laid out in a more detailed handbook and will require neighborhood watch groups to undergo training, register members with the police department and regularly update their status with the department, Cordingly said.

The neighborhood watch program will be overseen by the department’s new full-time three-officer community relations unit, she said.

Cordingly said the police department for the first time will map out the locations and keep track of neighborhood watch groups.

She said any neighborhood watch member who violates the rules, including carrying a weapon, will face removal from the program but will not be charged with a crime.

Martin’s family in April settled their wrongful death claim for Trayvon’s death against The Retreat at Twin Lakes subdivision for what was reportedly at least $1 million.

 


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Video: Car crashes into Cambridge store, man arrested…

A Cambridge man was arrested on gun and drug charges after crashing his car into a Massachusetts Avenue storefront early Saturday morning.

Local

Body found believed to be missing Fitchburg boy…

The body of a child found off of a highway in Sterling last week is likely that of missing Fitchburg boy Jeremiah Oliver, authorities said.

Local

Memorial held for Sean Collier, MIT police officer…

More than 1,600 people gathered at MIT on Friday for a memorial service for Sean Collier, the police officer shot to death a year ago in the aftermath of the…

National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

Television

'Orphan Black' recap: Episode 1, ‘Nature Under Constraint…

Welcome to your first Season 2 “Orphan Black” recap! Hopefully Tatiana Maslany can help Tatiana Maslany get through this, with the help of Tatiana Maslany,…

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Parenting

Is camp right for introverts?

We ask an expert for tips on sending your introverted child to camp

Parenting

How to parent without gender stereotypes in a…

Christia Spears Brown, Phd. author of "Parenting beyond Pink & Blue" gives advice on raising kids free of gender stereotypes.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.