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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Shooting Prompts Neighborhood Watch Groups’ Soul Searching

Trayvon Martin poses for a family photo. (AP)

The fatal shooting of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, has raised questions among neighborhood groups across the country.

“This is a guy who does not strike me as someone who should have been a neighborhood watch captain, and worse he’s running around with a 9 milimeter gun,” said Eric Resnick, a former neighborhood watch coordinator in Canton, Ohio.

Zimmerman was arrested in 2005 for battery on a law enforcement officer and is on record for calling the police 46 times since Jan. 1, 2011, “to report disturbances, break-ins, windows left open and other incidents. Nine of those times, he saw someone or something suspicious,” according to The Miami Herald.

‘More Testosterone Than Brains’

“There are people in all of our communities who have more testosterone than brains. Some of those people are going to be attracted to neighborhood watch, like pedofiles are attracted to playgrounds,” Resnick said. “Nowhere in what we were doing was there any warning.. any training, any formal attempts to discourage people who might be inappropriate from taking part in this.”

Chris Tutko, the director of the National Neighborhood Watch program, told ABC News that there are about 22,000 registered watch groups nationwide, and Zimmerman was not part of a registered group.

Carmen Caldwell, executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade County, says that many members of these informal groups are not trained properly.

“That’s the unfortunate thing that in many communities you have people that say ‘We have neighborhood watch.’ Okay, who’s leading it, who’s doing the training?” she said.

Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law

Zimmerman claims he was defending himself under Florida’s  “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to protect themselves with force outside the home.

Now State Senator Oscar Braynon is calling for hearings on that law.

Trayvon Martin was walking home after buying a pack of Skittles when Zimmerman began following him despite being told by a 911 dispatcher not to.

Zimmerman has not been arrested, which has led to protests by student groups in Florida.

The federal government is now investigating the case.


  • Eric Resnick, a former neighborhood watch coordinator in Canton, Ohio for a Justice Department called Weed and Seed that has since been defunded
  • Carmen Caldwell, executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade County

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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