Broward News

No More George Zimmermans? Sanford Bans Guns for Neighborhood Watch Patrols

Almost two years after George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed Trayvon Martin, and months after Zimmerman was acquitted for it, the new police Sanford chief is banning neighborhood watch volunteers from carrying guns.

Chief Cecil Smith said the changes are coming due to a lack of accountability in the town's neighborhood watch program when Zimmerman shot Martin.

Smith took over as chief this past April.

When Smith took a look at the program, he saw that it was in desperate need of reform (although, one just had to look at the Zimmerman case to make that determination):

"In this program, it is clearly stated that you will not pursue an individual," Smith explained. "In this new program, it clearly indicates that you will not carry a firearm when performing your duties as a neighborhood watch captain or participant."

"There was really no accountability. There was no true recognition. There were concerns with regards to training. There were concerns with how the program was being run," Smith said. "We put a cease to the neighborhood watch program, essentially, in the manner it was in before, and what we're doing now is really, truly revamping the entire program, starting from scratch."

Smith put a stop to neighborhood watches until real changes could be implemented.

Part of starting from scratch includes banning guns and also following suspects -- the two things Zimmerman did the night he shot Martin.

Changes also include mandatory background checks for volunteers and designated block captains who will have direct lines of communication to cops. Officers will be specifically assigned to work with citizen patrols oin a new division created by Smith's office.

"Neighborhood watch is a very simple organization. It's about neighbors helping neighbors, talking to neighbors about ways to make their neighborhood safe. That's it," Smith said.

A Sanford community meeting will be held November 5 to have residents voice their concerns and opinions on the changes.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph