HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY - While The Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman murder trial and the "Stand Your Ground Law", were never tied together in court, they have become forever tied in Tallahassee.
After months of outcry to toughen the law, in the shadow of Martin's death and the acquittal of Zimmerman, lawmakers have done just that.
A new bill now requires law enforcement to set up strict guidelines for neighborhood watch programs.
It also prevents the aggressor from using the "Stand Your Ground" law as a defense.
So how does that affect us here locally when it comes to our community watch programs?
In Hillsborough County, not much at all. The county never instructs its community watch volunteers to be the aggressor and confront anyone even if they are looking and acting very suspicious. T
he best course of action is to keep your eyes and ears open and call the sheriff's office if something is amiss.
Det. Chris DePolis emphasized that an individual with a neighborhood watch could get into serious trouble if they try to detain someone.
"Unlawful detention is a felony in the state of Florida," he spelled out.
So we're very careful with that, telling them you cannot unlawfully detain people no matter how suspicious they are."
For Bill Castens, who is a neighborhood watch captain in the North Dale area of the county, confrontation is not an option.
He says the key is to know your neighbors, network with them, watch out for them, and keep in touch with the sheriff's office.
"I think people know that in North Dale if you mess around we're going to spread the word and then we'll get the Sheriff involved." Bottom line according to the Deputy DePolis and Castens, the best asset a watch program has is their cell phone.
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