COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The George Zimmerman trial reached a verdict this weekend, and people nationwide are now curious about neighborhood watch programs.
Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch leader himself, and he explained that he went after Trayvon Martin because the teenager looked suspicious.
What responsibilities do neighborhood watch members hold? Are they allowed to pursue suspicious-looking people or take on dangerous situations themselves? News Leader 9's Sara Lim met with Isaac Brown, a coordinator and a block captain for Edgewood Neighborhood Watch program, to answer these questions
Brown explained that he and other block captains and coordinators had to receive training from the police department in Columbus.
"We were told NOT to take the law into our own hands," Brown said. "As neighborhood watch members, we have to keep an eye out for each other in our community. Neighborhood watch does not just mean we stay alert in our neighborhoods…we constantly try to look out for any questionable actions or people throughout our area. However, we do not take the law into our own hands. The law enforcement tells us to call 911 or contact the police department, and then notify our block captains to let them know about the situations."
Brown said that Zimmerman did not properly fulfill his task as a responsible neighborhood watch leader, since he took the matters into his own hands by fighting Trayvon Martin.
"The operator told him to stay in the car once Zimmerman called 911. That is all he had to do," Brown explained. "He should have called the operator, then call his block captain or anyone who was in charge of the area's neighborhood watch program. Yet, he went out and tried to take the law into his hands. That's wrong."
Since the Zimmerman trial, the 911 operator admitted that 911 operators have no authority to deny a citizen's pursuit of another while reporting a suspected crime. However, Brown believes that the Trayvon Martin situation would have turned out differently, if Zimmerman could have waited for the police to show up.
"Be careful. Keep your eye out for each other. Do not try to take the law into your own hands," Brown said. "The law enforcers should be taking care of such situations…not the neighborhood watch members."