Do's and don'ts of neighborhood watch following Fl. teen's death

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - You might belong to one: a neighborhood watch group. The eyes and ears for police. Tonight we talked to some volunteers to see how far they go in keeping their community safe.

The do's and don'ts of neighborhood watch are in the spotlight after the controversial shooting of 17-year-old Florida teen, Trayvon Martin.

There are neighborhood watch groups in cities and counties throughout Central Virginia. We caught up with a couple of volunteers in Petersburg. They do keep their eyes peeled and don't take matters into their own hands. They say that's what police are for.

Carolyn Edwards watches from a safe distance.

"I just keep my eyes open for anything unusual," said Edwards.

Edwards is a neighborhood watch block captain for Fairfax Street in Petersburg's Walnut Hill community.

"I know every kid. (So you've got your eye on everything?) Right and when someone moves into the neighborhood, I introduce myself," said Edwards.

Edwards and her neighbor, Shelley Picou have been working with police for four years now. Picou has been the watch coordinator for the last two.

Volunteers don't patrol here.

"We have enough of the neighbors that just walk around the block, walk their dogs, run," said Picou.

Tara Morgan: "Do any of you own weapons?
Carolyn Edwards: "Uh, perhaps, but I would never use it."

Self appointed watch captain, George Zimmerman, shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida as the teen walked home from a store. The shooting sparked a nationwide outcry for justice. Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense. He hasn't been charged.

"He was out of line," said Picou.

Police here don't encourage volunteers to take action or carry weapons.

"We don't want them to say they are police officers or any type of law enforcement entity. They are simply a watch," said Chesterfield Police Corporal Scott Gordon.

They do want volunteers to keep cell phones handy.

In Chesterfield county neighborhood watch volunteers can get free donated cell phones just for the purpose of calling 911.

"If somebody needs a phone, we can provide that. If they have an old phone, we would gladly take that and have it refurbished," said Cpl. Gordon.

Edwards and Picou said they know the drill and so far it's worked.

"We call a non-emergency number and we tell them we're from neighborhood watch and they come pretty quick," said Edwards.

They feel their neighborhood streets are safe.

The watch volunteers said they not only call police but also pick up their phone to alert their neighbors about anything suspicious which police encourage people to do.

Contact your local police department to find out how to get involved in a neighborhood watch.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.