Defending your community within the law

Published: Mar. 21, 2012 at 2:51 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 21, 2012 at 3:16 AM EDT
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RUSSELL COUNTY, AL (WTVM) - It is a story that has shocked our country--a 17-year-old gunned down by a neighborhood watcher in Florida.  In all it is controversy, the case has caused an important question to arise: what can I do at my home to protect myself within the law and not hurt someone who may mean no harm?

"You want your neighborhood watch to be productive, and to be a success, but you also want it to be in a good way."

Delana Leffew and other Fort Mitchell community members have recently come together to watch each other's backs.

"They are designed strictly for surveillance type information, gathering information of who they see, what times, and then calling 911," said Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor of Russell County's neighborhood watch groups.

Taylor says in Alabama a person does have the right to defend himself and the lives of others if they feel threatened in their home.

"You can use deadly force to defend your home if that is a necessary means to stop the person from the intrusion or from injuring someone that is there within the home or yourself," said the sheriff.

Georgia law is similar allowing for a person to meet "force with force" including deadly force in self defense.

Taylor says each case is unique and encourages people to not go looking for trouble.  He warns, if  you see anything suspicious in your community, the first thing you need to do is call 911.

Sheriff Taylor says another way to keep your community safe is through social media.  The Russell County Sheriff's Office and Phenix City Police actively update things you need to know on their Facebook pages.

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