The concept of neighborhood watch groups can mean various things around the country, but personal intervention by civilians is not encouraged in local programs such as Citizens on Patrol and Hood County Wise Eyes.
The recent trial of former neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla., brought to light the steps that eventually led to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, who had a license to carry a concealed weapon, said he shot Martin in self defense in February 2012 during a physical altercation in which he sustained a broken nose and head injuries. On Saturday a jury found Zimmerman not guilty.
CITIZENS POLICE ACADEMY
Residents interested in participating in a local support group for the Granbury Police Department can join the Citizen Police Academy (CPA). After completing a 10-week course, participants can then be approved to join the CPA Alumni.
“They are just simply the eyes of the police department,” CPAA President Lester Cox said. “They don’t get out of the car. They carry a portable radio. They’re not to get into harm’s way in any manner.”
Cox said that CPAA members who complete an additional specialized 8-hour course can assist with traffic control around the scene of a vehicle accident if needed.
Cox said there are currently a dozen active members of Citizens On Patrol, known as COPS, who patrol through the city in a marked car.
WISE EYES CAN BE HELPFUL
Hood County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Kathy Jividen, who oversees the Wise Eyes Crime Watch Program of Hood County, said that the principle is basically the same for Wise Eyes participants.
“The sheriff (Roger Deeds) tells them just to be good witnesses – do not get involved,” Jividen said of those who sign up to participate in Wise Eyes. “Do not attempt any contact with the person. Do not attempt to stop the person. Call 911 and be a good witness.”
Jividen said that making contact with a potential crime suspect is discouraged “because of the safety factor for the participants. We just don’t really encourage that. It can end up being a whole different thing than what it started to be.”
The Wise Eyes program was originally set up to assist in child abduction cases. Phil Ryan, a former Texas Ranger and former Wise County sheriff, founded the program in 1994. Ryan is now a consultant for Devon Energy, which provides Wise Eyes signs that can be posted in neighborhoods with active Wise Eyes groups, Jividen said.
Wise Eyes uses emails to inform participants on public safety issues such as burglaries, thefts, scams and drug investigations.
The Sheriff’s Office will provide training to Wise Eyes participants on the following topics:
Starting and maintaining a crime watch network.
Narcotics and drug lab recognition.
Home safety and burglary prevention.
Identifying and reporting suspicious activities.
Wise Eyes participants get instructions on how to be a good witness. The No. 1 item on the Wise Eyes list is “Always try to keep yourself and others away from potential danger. Get what information you can without risk.”
Another key point on the list states, “Do not confront any suspects and do not take on the role of law enforcement. Do not try to personally investigate any offense outside of assisting the sheriff’s investigators.”
Wise Eyes Crime Watch incident reports are available, making it easy to log potentially helpful information on individuals who may seem suspicious in the neighborhood.
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