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Sanford Police Revamp Neighborhood Watch After Trayvon Martin Shooting

Oct 30, 2013 | WMFE - The Sanford Police Department is revamping its Neighborhood Watch. While some parts of the program are new, some simply place new emphasis on existing rules, like the ban on volunteers carrying firearms. The program's overhaul comes in the wake of the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by Neighborhood Watch volunteer and self-appointed captain George Zimmerman.

[Image: Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith]

Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith took over the department in April, and suspended the Neighborhood Watch program shortly thereafter. Department officials say Smith saw the need for thorough review and revision in light of the circumstances surrounding Martin's February 2012 death. Zimmerman reported Martin to police as suspicious, then followed the unarmed teen and fatally shot him after an altercation. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in July. 

The new Neighborhood Watch program Smith will reveal at a November 5th community meeting stresses that volunteers are not to carry guns and not to follow suspects. As before, members are expected to call police when they see a person or activity they deem suspicious. 

New additions to the program include background checks for Neighborhood Watch captains and mandatory training. Watch groups will also work directly with police officers, instead of a civilian liaison. 

Department officials say the public is welcome at the November 5th meeting.


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