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No Guns for Neighborhood Watch: Sanford Police

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on October 31, 2013 1:16 PM

Neighborhood watch volunteers will no longer be allowed to carry guns in Sanford, Florida -- the city where unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in 2012.

The new rules from Sanford's police department will state that residents who are part of a neighborhood watch "may not carry a firearm or pursue someone they deem suspicious," Reuters reports.

In other words, Sanford police want to put the "watch" back in neighborhood watch.

Fears Over Firepower

Reuters reports that neighborhood watch groups originated in 1972 under the National Sheriffs' Association. Today, neighborhood watch volunteers are typically untrained and unsupervised by law enforcement.

The new regulations are an effort by the Sanford community to "put fears to rest" over a neighborhood watch that was "tarnished in the media," Reuters reports. Zimmerman was the neighborhood watch captain for his Sanford subdivision at the time he shot and killed Martin. Zimmerman was charged with Martin's murder but was later acquitted.

Instead of merely offering neighborhood watch groups informational handbooks, as Sanford Police had done in the past, watch participants will now be required to undergo registration and training with the police department. And those carrying weapons "will face removal from the program," according to Reuters.

New Program May Reduce Liability

In addition to easing the bad press related to Zimmerman's neighborhood watch patrol, the new regulations may decrease homeowner liability for any future incidents. Reuters reports that the Martin family was able to recover at least $1 million from the homeowners' association at the subdivision where he was killed.

A Sanford police spokeswoman stated that those violating the new community watch rules would "not be charged with a crime," Reuters reports. However, it should be noted that carrying weapons without a license or anywhere near school property can result in serious criminal charges in Florida.

Sanford police are set to release the new rules at a community meeting November 5.

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