SANFORD, Fla. – The Sanford police chief held a media briefing on Tuesday to discuss the Neighborhood Watch program meeting and how there will not be a ban on program participants carrying guns.
Police Chief Cecil Smith said there is a difference between Neighborhood Watch and Citizens on Patrol and that neither program is designed for people to carry guns.
Smith said he made a mistake when he said last week the new Neighborhood Watch policies would include a ban on members carrying guns. He says there will only be a verbal recommendation that watchers not carry guns and there will be no written policy as such.
But block captains will now be required to sign a waiver that says if they carry any weapon they are going beyond the training of police and relinquish the city of liability.
Smith said there will be a written gun ban for members on duty in SPD's Citizens on Patrol program, which lets people go one step further than Neighborhood Watch.
Smith said the Neighborhood Watch meeting on Tuesday night's goal is to define the program.
Neighborhood Watch is not designed for people to patrol their neighborhoods, Smith said, it's about being watchful and a helpful witness to possible crimes.
"We're asking people to be the eyes and ear," said Smith. "If you see something pick up the telephone and call us. That's what we're asking people to do as far as Neighborhood Watch is concerned."
The meeting was at the City Commission Chambers at City Hall on North Park Avenue. Those interested in becoming part of the Neighborhood Watch program can apply for a background check at the meeting and training will begin in January, when the new programs are reinstated.
When Smith took over he suspended the formation of new neighborhood watch programs because he said the program was "a mess."
The new policies come out of lessons learned from the lack of communication/oversight of Neighborhood Watch as shown by the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin case, Smith said.
City Commissioner Patty Mahany tells Local 6 she's opposed to the police department taking more responsibility for the Neighborhood Watch programs. She said she thinks providing training to volunteers could open up the city to future legal trouble.
Watch Local 6 for more on this story.