Florida Neighborhood Watch vs Guardian Angels

Zimmerman and Trayvon in Neighborhood Watch ShootingThe Boston Herald this morning said, “George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who fired the shot that claimed the life of Trayvon Martin on a rainy night in Sanford, Fla., last month, has been painted as a racist, a vigilante and a murderer.”

As Guardian Angels, we are very proactive, with a hands-on crime deterrence action. How are we different from Zimmerman on Neighborhood Watch in Florida?

It’s important to know that our words, actions, gestures … anything we do is probably recorded somewhere these days. Traffic cameras, home surveillance systems, recorded phone calls (especially to emergency services like 911 in the United States) – every detail matters. And, everything really does get brought into question:


“In 2005, George Zimmerman was twice accused of either criminal misconduct or violence.

That July, Zimmerman — 21 at the time — was at a bar near the University of Central Florida when a friend was arrested by state alcohol agents on suspicion of serving underage drinkers, according to an arrest report.”

“A month later, court records show, a woman filed a petition for an injunction against Zimmerman, citing domestic violence.”

Even the “good citizen” stuff can (and obviously will) be brought out in an awkward angle:

“…He took his role as a Neighborhood Watch volunteer very seriously. Police say Zimmerman had called to report suspicious people on multiple occasions, just as he did when he saw Trayvon. In the past 15 months, he made 46 calls to Sanford police, according to records.”

“Zimmerman expressed an interest in law enforcement when he applied to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office citizens’ law-enforcement academy in 2008, and has demonstrated that, although he’s not a cop, he is willing to take action that resembles policing.”

No Weapons, Thank You

There are Guardian Angels chapters all around the world. There is huge divergence in the legal ownership and carrying of self defense tools and weapons in all these different communities. Even within the USA, the differences are dramatic. I grew up in Boston, and now live in Los Angeles. In Boston, it’s relatively easy to obtain a license to carry a concealed, loaded handgun … but pepper spray and Tasers are not even legal to own. On the other hand, in Los Angeles, it’s nearly impossible for an average person to get a concealed carry permit, but both pepper spray and tasers are legal and easily accessible.

You can imagine that all these different laws could cause great problems for the Guardian Angels … but fortunately, our founder Curtis Sliwa decided early on that we would never carry anything that could be confused for being a weapon. This makes it much easier for you to avoid this kind of legal confusion on a patrol with us. In fact, as demonstrated in a prior post involving a conversation with police about pepper spray, carrying any kind of weapon makes it much more likely that you’ll use it.

If Zimmerman on his Neighborhood Watch in Florida had simply been walking in the neighborhood without his weapon, he obviously wouldn’t have used it to shoot young Trayvon in February. It’s a little less obvious, but data shows that Zimmerman would probably have acted more professionally, without the false bravado and intimidation that comes from carrying that weapon. A little planning, and a lot more Guardian Angels style behavior, would have made a huge difference for that neighborhood, and a life-saving difference for young Trayvon.

Stand Your Ground Laws

Of course, this is even further complicated by the subtle differences in self-defense laws around the world. In Florida (and other places) there is no requirement for “Preclusion” in an act of self-defense. You can defend yourself against a threat you merely think is going to happen. This is often called the, “stand your ground law.” Now, that might seem absurd to some … but if you’ve spent much time around violence, you pretty well know when something is about to get violent – even before it happens. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to use unreasonable, or excessive force to accomplish that defense.

It is always important to show (regardless of preclusion related law) that any amount of force used in self-defense was the minimum amount of force needed to regain safety. In the Zimmerman case, he used lethal force against a younger person with no weapon. That doesn’t automatically make it excessive force (my grandmother would need a gun to equalize the threat from an unarmed football linebacker, for example). But it sure doesn’t make for pleasant news coverage, either.

Get to know your local laws, and think through your actions now, with lots and lots of imaginary scenarios. At least you’ll have some idea of what makes sense in your own mind that way. Violence is confusing enough on its own; you may as well get your own ideas at least partially straightened out before diving into the wild world of violence.

For the whole article, check out: Who is Florida neighborhood crime watch volunteer George Zimmerman?

  • Jimsur1218

    I am entertaining an answer to the New Black Panther Party called the White Tiger Party. We will wear a white beret,and tee shirt with a White tiger logo ,with bloused pants and boots.Wanted are volunteers,prefer body builders, security,self defense types but anyone is encouraged to participate.This is not to be a racist, hate group or militia.But an answer to the new Black Panther Party. No display of weapons nor threats of violence will be tolerated. W e will only show our peaceful presence at places where white intimidation is taking place I.E. the George Zimmerman case,polling places.We will also protest and bring attention to killing and injustices to white people.We are also in need of financial and organizational support to cover costs to travel and lodging if needed. Please contact me @jimsur1218@hotmail,com

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  • Spokker

    ” It’s a little less obvious, but data shows that Zimmerman would probably have acted more professionally, without the false bravado and intimidation that comes from carrying that weapon. ”

    There is no evidence that Zimmerman displayed any bravado or intimidation. His weapon was concealed, and there was no way it could have intimidated anyone because they wouldn’t know about it.

    But of course you guys don’t feel the need to carry weapons, considering your organization’s history of staged rescues.

    • http://petersteeves.me Peter Steeves

      Mr Spokker,

      I don’t see where we disagree:

      Indeed, there is no evidence of brandishing the weapon, but that’s not what I said. I also don’t state that the weapon served as the source of any intimidation. There is most certainly bravado and intimidation involved in getting out of your car to stop and question a stranger at night. Sometimes that is justified, and sometimes it may even be necessary.

      I’m not judging Zimmerman. I’m suggesting (based on data) that the presence of a weapon (even if known only to the carrier of that weapon) gives the weapon owner a higher than usual chance of instigating conflict. It’s not an opinion question. I reference a segment of this research in the Why Not Pepper Spray post, also.

    • http://petersteeves.me/ Peter Steeves

      This section quoted here doesn’t talk about Zimmerman’s actions; it talks about general data. Specifically, carrying a weapon tends to increase the tendency for actions of bravado and intimidation.” I apologize for the confusion it may have caused.

      Regarding the rest of the comment: please let’s be professional here. Thank you for understanding.

  • http://www.facebook.com/adam.kratt Adam Kratt

    The truth is police 911 audio tapes recorded Zimmerman screaming for help. Witnesses reported that approached Zimmerman and attacked him. Zimmerman shot Trayvon in self defense. He had a legal right to carry that gun. Zimmerman should never have been arrested Florida officials should never have buckled.

    • http://petersteeves.me/ Peter Steeves

      “The truth” isn’t something I know in this case, nor is it discussed in the article.

      Here, I’m taking a look at why good behavior and good reputations matter so much, and how sometimes reports of our past behaviors sometimes give people different impressions of our actions in the present.

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