Over the weekend, the nation watched and listened as the “Not Guilty” verdict was read for second degree murder and manslaughter charges in the case of George Zimmerman. Mr. Zimmerman is the 29 year old neighborhood watchman man and man who fired the fatal shot of 17 year old Trayvon Martin on the evening of February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida. The subject I will bring before you is that of a personal interest, for I live in a gated community that has a neighborhood watch program.
This case has captured the nation’s attention and has shined a spotlight in many areas of interest ranging from self defense to cold blooded murder, racial profiling on down to gun rights. As television, radio and print continue to deliver the news on the case. Individuals and organized groups take to their social media accounts to address the case and silent/non-violent vigils across the nation take place. The only two people who will ever know what happened that tragic evening is George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.
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As I proceed forward, I will address and carve out various reasons for the need for communities to be vigilant, not vigilantes for Neighborhood watchmen/women patrolling our communities. The importance of partnering with law enforcement the need for local legislation tailored to reinforce this plea. Harold Medlock, the Fayetteville, North Carolina police chief stated “I really encourage neighborhoods to get involved and report suspicious activities. Be vigilant, but do not become a vigilante, else you may become another George Zimmerman. We have the training and the expertise. We know how to approach folks.
That’s what the good people of Fayetteville, North Carolina, pay police to do. ” With that said, I implore that police and trained personnel are equipped to dismantle any potentially dangerous or threatening situation. Moreover, communities such as that in Fayetteville, North Carolina are extending an open invitation to civilians in sharing responsibility of keeping our neighborhoods safe. Other law enforcement agencies have taken additional approaches in neighborhood community /police relations such as the Sacramento Police Department. Their department has an app for the iPhone.
You can connect on your phone to their program entitled “Neighborhood Networking Website Nextdoor. ” It’s a social networking website to foster what it calls a “virtual neighborhood watch program. ” Nextdoor is a website that connects residents of the same neighborhood to one another. Nextdoor has been rolled out across the country, where it has often teamed up with police departments and municipal governments. This is a safe and controlled approach to curving potential neighborhood crime. Next I bring to you the importance of having more than one personal patrolling an area.
It stems from the notion that only Zimmerman was able to give a testimony to police regarding that night. In an article entitled “Neighborhood Watch 101: How to Patrol” by Melina Ann Collision, it goes on to explain in detail to make sure people patrol in groups of 2 or more, carry a radio or cell phone for communication, bring paper and pen to take notes if necessary, have bright colored clothing on, and flashlights if it is dark. The article warns to do not allow neighborhood watch group members to chase criminals, carry weapons, or try to act like police.
It stresses the importance to talk to other people in the neighborhood and ask what they think needs patrolling or how much they will allow their property to be patrolled. Some people take comfort in neighborhood watch groups and others want the group to stay of their lawns. Always check with individuals in the neighborhood first. It is my opinion in having a third party present to bear witness to all happenings and/or wrongdoings may eliminate any speculation of proper or improper engagement. Moreover, this approach is likely to deter any possible criminal activity should more than one person be identified as a watchman/woman.
Last and certainly not least I respect and abide by the laws of our country. If each municipal local governing agency would pass legislation to ensure the safety of neighborhoods, communities, civilians, law enforcement and government officials under due proper guidelines, all will have knowledge of what can and can not be done as a neighborhood watch person. The National Institute of Justice prepared a report to the United States Congress entitled “Preventing Crime: What Works; What Doesn’t; What’s Promising. The primary conclusion of the report found that in part enacting programs in different local communities sometimes work, sometimes don’t work in curving crime and in monitoring the effectiveness of community organizations and neighborhood watch programs. The report dug into the monies spent for federally to be used in local communities. In 1996, $1. 4 billion was used in funding of local police by the Office for Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and $1. 8 billion in local crime prevention assistance funding of a wide range of institutions by the Office for Justice Programs (OJP).
Although funding is still being received and legislation being enacted, it is primarily up to local communities to pass legislation that is in the best interest of all of the citizens in each respective community. In Conclusion, our society has a fundamental principal that says “I am my brother’s keeper. ” The Neighborhood Watch program is designed for neighbors to look after each other. Neighbors are asked to be the eyes and ears in helping the police with apprehending criminals and curving possible criminal activity.
Neighborhood Watch is not designed to be a substitute for police protection; rather it is an extension or supplement in assisting the police in making neighborhoods safer for all citizens. Neighborhood Watch operates under two principles: neighbors getting to know and watch out for each other, and neighbors watching out for each other’s property as though it were their own. Neighborhood Watch helps to create an identity within the neighborhood, which in turn fosters a sense of pride and belonging for the participants.