Zimmerman case puts spotlight on neighborhood watches and patrol - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Zimmerman case puts spotlight on neighborhood watches and patrol


MADISON (WKOW)-- A nationally known criminal trial for George Zimmerman has inspired interest in many people across the country. While some are focusing on the racial aspects of the case, some are concerned about the affect the trial will have on neighborhood watches and patrols.

Travyvon Martin was shot and killed by Zimmerman during a neighborhood patrol in Sanford Florida. Madison's Guardian Angels, a group of volunteers who patrol the downtown area say the trial has created some negative feelings about what they do.

"The people who don't know what we do are going to have a negative outlook even more so than before because of the publicity," Madison Guardian Angel leader Joe Oakland says.

The Guardian Angels are part of an international network with groups in nearly 140 cities and 15 countries. Leaders in Madison say the group requires all members to be unarmed during patrols. What they believe is a crucial difference between the type of patrol Zimmerman was doing the night he shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

"Sometimes it's hard to make a decision whether to use deadly force or not and at this point if we're not armed we don't have that option," Oakland says.

The group also has a policy that no one can patrol alone. They typically travel in groups of three to four because it provides strength in numbers. The group also trains in hand to hand combat and self defense and performs background checks before members can join.

"We're not out there following people just because they look suspicious. We're looking for people having problems or causing problems," Guardian Angel Greg Pigarelli explains.

Besides the Guardian Angels the city of Madison has 30 organized neighborhood watch groups that work with police. Many of the neighborhoods have been patrolling their streets for years.  It's something Guardian Angel leaders are hoping to see more of. They're urging people to not let the recent case in Florida change the way feel about neighborhood watches.

"Clearly everyone can't do it, but there's enough people who can and hopefully they take some initiative to get a hold of us," Oakland says.


To find out more about the Guardian Angels, you can visit their web site at http://www.guardianangels.org/


For info on Madison's neighborhood watch groups you can visit the Madison Police Department's Neighborhood Watch web site at http://www.cityofmadison.com/neighborhoods/watch.htm


We've also included a map of all the criminal activity that has happened in the Madison area in recent months. http://spotcrime.com/wi/madison




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