Sanford Police Revamp Neighborhood Watch After Trayvon Martin Shooting

Sanford, Fla  (CNN) – More than a year and a half after Trayvon Martin was shot by then-neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, the city of Sanford is making major changes to its neighborhood watch program.

Sanford's new police chief Cecil Smith is spearheading many of the changes.

“In this program, it is clearly stated that you will not pursue an individual. 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.”

Smith started as chief in April, just two months before George Zimmerman's murder trial.

Zimmerman, who was acquitted of all charges, was the neighborhood watch captain in a gated community on the night he shot Trayvon Martin.

Chief Smith says, as soon as he arrived in Sanford, the neighborhood watch program Zimmerman was part of was still operating the same way it was when he shot Trayvon Martin.

And so the chief stopped it completely, until changes could be implemented.

“We've seen this happen already, where an individual was declaring that under the auspice of neighborhood watch, he was performing a duty… when he wasn't.”

Smith says the program was dysfunctional, disorganized and disjointed.

“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. 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.”

Besides banning guns and following suspects, Sanford's revamped neighborhood watch program will include mandatory background checks.

Police are also creating a new division of officers created to work with neighborhood watch members.


Before now, there was no immediate police liaison assigned to neighborhood watches.

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