Neighborhood watch groups discuss the safety of patrols - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Neighborhood watch groups discuss the safety of patrols

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PINCH, West Virginia -

As word of Trayvon Martin's death hit national headlines some neighborhood watch groups across the country hoped the incident wouldn't shine a negative light on their efforts to help the community.

Volunteers launched the Pinch Neighborhood Watch group in Kanawha County over 3 years ago.

Volunteer Angela Brown said the community appreciated the safety of their community and wanted to keep it that way.

Brown said they don't do patrols either on foot or in vehicles. She said they work closely with local law enforcement to report suspicious activity that they see while going about their daily routine. Brown said they also take proactive measures to inform the community about possible dangers.

But she said members know they don't have the training or authority to do much more.

"We have not had the training that our police department has had to really step in and apprehend somebody or detain somebody," Brown said. "We have never asked that of our members."

The Omar Area Crime Watch in Logan County is an example of a group that does do regular patrols in the community. Larry Rogers is a member of the group and said some members do carry weapons. He said proper training and permits are required before that can happen.

Rogers said he personally has received death threats because of the Crime Watch's patrols. He said often times members can find themselves in dangerous situations. Volunteers are instructed to avoid confrontation and never to chase anyone, either in a vehicle or on foot. Rogers said the guns are solely for the personal protection of the individual doing the patrol. He said local law enforcement is contacted to handle any suspicious activity or concerns.

The National Sheriff's Association oversees several neighborhood watch groups across the country. Their manual states that neighborhood watch volunteers should not carry a weapon or chase anyone, advising instead that they should call the police and report what they observed.