90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
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

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://www.facebook.com/d0job.Knows Dan Joy

    great story.  thanks

  • David

    I live in Alaska and in our neighborhood the Crime Watch Captain falsely accused a resident of being a child molester because she had seen a similar-looking fellow in the sex offender registry and wrongly applied to an innocent man.  She completely destroyed the resident’s name in the neighborhood, and it could and should have been actionable: when confronted with this slander, she did not even apologize.  She also took to interviewing people she did not recognize as if it was her right to vet each and every resident.  This Crime Watch program in my view is completely out of hand and tends to draw in the the nosy neighbors  and authoritarian types who think its their god-given right to pry.

  • Jimmy Coker

    We have a neighborhood watch in my community, but I have no idea who they are, who leads them, or how to get hold of them.  I saw a suspicious vehicle one night that didn’t seem to belong, and I flagged them down and they said they were the neighborhood watch.  That’s the first and last I ever saw of them!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aaron-King/693716010 Aaron King

    I am an auxiliary police officer in a small town outside of Detroit.  We are incorporated with the local Police and work directly with them to support neighborhood patrol and large community events.  To join I had to have a comprehensive background check along with an interview process with its steering committee and a sergeant from the pd.  We are a uniformed patrol and can carry an asp and mace after qualified training.  We play a helpful role in curbing crimes simply by increasing the appearance of police presence and we are often the eyes and ears in places where our limited police force cannot be.  These programs are not only essential to public safety they are also a right (right to organize) of communities, especially those who are overrun by crime.

  • Lkiff2

    Excellent story, and it is good to see that the authorities are now investigating the matter. 
    As an entirely separate observation, I suggest that a tape of Carmen Caldwell’s voice be sent to Guantanamo to be used for prying information out of uncooperative prisoners. It would not exactly be torture, but…

  • Purplmums

    I do not know if this has been in all the reports or not, but what gets in my craw and irks me to NO END is that George Zimmerman is a “self appointed neighborhood watch captain”. SELF APPOINTED!!! Why is no-one addressing that point?

  • Courtney N.

    A important word in Neighborhood Watch Group is “Watch”.  Mr. Zimmerman took it upon himself to do more than watch and report. While I believe proper training is very necessary for watch group participants, I do not believe it would have deterred or altered Mr. Zimmerman’s motive for murder. As evidence Mr. Zimmerman did not heed the advice of a 911 dispatcher. I am persuaded to think Mr. Zimmerman would have acted in the same manner captain of the watch group or not.  I am most trouble by Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground Law’ and the inaction of local law enforcement.  This is such a sad story.

  • J Butler

    I am curious how the Florida “stand your ground” law applies to this situation. As I have heard it, Mr Zimmerman followed this young man and confronted him. If Mr Zimmerman would have stood his ground he would have been in his own house. How can we justify a man tracking down a teenager and shooting him in chest as self defense?

  • Phxdvl

    What a sad failure of justice this family has been facing at one of the hardest time. The loss of an apparently good child. My heart goes out to them. The Sanford PD should have arrested Mr. Zimmerman if the tables had been turned I am certain they would have arrested Trayvon Martin.

  • peter

    had to stop listening to this, the lady talking to Robin was so annoying I just couldn’t stand it.

  • Poop

    Promps is not a word. Use spell check :)

  • Mparker

    I bet that if the color of the people involved, namely the victim and the shooter, had been reversed; a Black neighborhood watch captain shooting a young White kid,  the Black guy would be UNDER the jail by now.
    This same guy was arrested for beating up a Black homeless man , as shown on You-tube a few years ago.  He, and his friends say he isn’t a racist.  So, am I to believe that it’s just a coincidence that both of his victims are Black?
     Sorry, I’m just not that gullible.

  • Anonymous

    Does no one think it is odd that an unmarried guy with no kids in his 20′s is involved in neighborhood watch?  If he wanted to “serve and protect” his neighborhood, why didn’t he join the police force or even military?  Are we going to find that the police force rejected him as an applicant?  Everyone is making assumptions about Trayvon, but I think that even though he has a white jewish guy name, that the hispanic thug Zimmerman is very shady.  He has a proven history of excessively “reporting suspicious” people (likely mostly black guys) and a prior arrest for assaulting a cop.  Why is everyone ignoring this weirdo Zimmerman?  I don’t know any single guy in his 20′s who wastes his nights walking around with a gun on “neighborhood watch” when he should be out dating and socializing.  All of his “friends” that stood up for him are old people.  Zimmerman is very shady, and probably has too much testosterone and an itching to play cop and be a tough guy.

Robin and Jeremy

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

September 16 7 Comments

Kathy Gunst Explores Community Supported Agriculture

Kathy Gunst joins Cook's Illustrated executive food editor Keith Dresser at his CSA pickup and offers recipes for the seasonal CSA fare.

September 16 11 Comments

Remembering Jesse Winchester

Jimmy Buffett remembers his friend the late songwriter Jesse Winchester, whose posthumous album is being released today.

September 15 26 Comments

A Call To Reject Corporal Punishment As Part Of Black Culture

An incident of child abuse by an NFL player has raised questions about the use of corporal punishment as a form of discipline in the African-American community.

September 15 26 Comments

Would You Pay To Get Your Kid Into A Top College?

A San Francisco company charges parents for a consulting package based on the odds their student will get into a certain university, with prices up to a million dollars.