The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Breaking News

Local News

August 11, 2013

Pa. House bill would regulate neighborhood watch groups

HERMITAGE — The killing of Trayvon Martin was a wakeup call. But when state Rep. Louise Bishop’s grandson was accosted by a stranger who identified himself as a member of the neighborhood watch, the Philadelphia lawmaker knew she had to act.

Bishop said her 16-year-old grandson was heading toward a home where he was supposed to be dog-sitting. The stranger asked what the teen was doing and the ordered the boy to get into his vehicle. Bishop’s grandson escaped and in the weeks since, it’s still not clear whether the man who accosted the teen was a rogue member of a local watch or an impersonator trying to entice the boy into his car.

Either way, the episode illustrated clearly to Bishop the shortcomings in the informal, unregulated manner that neighborhood watch groups operate in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Bishop, a Democrat, is seeking support from other lawmakers for a bill that would require Neighborhood Watch groups to be certified by the Pennsylvania State Police. The legislation would also create new rules to create a standard form of identification for Neighborhood Watch volunteers. The identification would help other members of the community will be able to recognize that the patroller belongs to a state-recognized group, Bishop said.

Pennsylvania would not be the first state to tackle concerns about Neighborhood Watch volunteers in the wake of Martin’s shooting. Last year, lawmakers in Illinois approved legislation requiring “auxiliary police officers” to complete 400 hours of training. In the wake of that move, many of those auxiliary units folded because of the requirement.

There are more than 400 neighborhood watch groups in Pennsylvania, according to a registry on the website of the National Sheriff’s Association, which created the National Neighborhood Watch.

A spokesman for the association told National Public Radio that there are roughly 25,000 watch groups across the country. Because of the sheer number of groups, regulating their efforts would be difficult, Chris Tutko, director of the National Neighborhood Watch Association, told NPR.

Policy manuals created by the national Neighborhood Watch make it clear that George Zimmerman and the mysterious man who accosted Bishop’s grandson were not following recommended practices.

“Community members only serve as the extra ‘eyes and ears’ of law enforcement. They should report their observations of suspicious activities to law enforcement; however, citizens should never try to take action on those observations,” according to the Neighborhood Watch manual. “Trained law enforcement should be the only ones ever to take action based on observations of suspicious activities.”

Bishop’s bill would not only create a framework for oversight of watch groups, but it would also make it a crime to impersonate a watch volunteer.



AREA NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH GROUPS



Mercer County

  • Pymatuning Township Community Watch
  • Sharon/Farrell Weed and Seed
  • Sharpsville

Lawrence County

  • East Winter Watch - New Castle
  • Burnstown Crime Watch - Ellwood City
  • North Hill Watch - New Castle
  • Ellwood City

     

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Couple, another man charged in thefts

    Pennsylvania State Police have filed charges of burglary, theft, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief against an East Palestine, Ohio, couple and another man in connection with two robberies in rural Mercer County.

    July 22, 2014

  • Taking stock Where’s the beef? Bull’s still missing

    Is it possible that an alien abduction took place in the Mercer area last week? A solid red, 2-year-old Watusi bull with 3-foot-long horns has been missing since July 14 with no trace of its existence left on earth.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Buhl Day honorees

    The Buhl Day committee has chosen for this year’s celebration five honored guests whose volunteer work they feel best showcases the legacy of philanthropic work left behind by Frank and Julia Buhl a century ago.

    July 22, 2014

  • GC pair not hurt in accident injuring 2

    Two drivers were taken to a hospital after an accident at the intersection of state routes 965 and 173 in Worth Township, police said.

    July 21, 2014

  • WaterFire crowds WaterFire doused

    Sharon’s WaterFire wasn’t lacking either of its elements on Saturday. There was steady, day-long rain but the day concluded with the Shenango River ablaze.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • ‘Starved’ boy released from hospital

    A 7-year-old boy allegedly starved and beaten by his mother is out of the hospital and ordered out of his Greenville home by Mercer County Common Pleas President Judge Thomas R. Dobson.

    July 20, 2014

  • WaterFire walking tour Time traveling

    A group of more 50 people walked between the raindrops Saturday during an historical tour of downtown Sharon during the city’s WaterFire celebration.

    July 20, 2014 6 Photos 1 Story

  • News briefs from July 19, 2014

    Michigan man charged with assaulting girl here

    Sharon man charged with raping woman

    July 19, 2014

  • For sale Realty transfer tax hike headed for ballot

    Sharon voters will be deciding through a referendum whether city council can raise the realty transfer tax. Council gave first reading Thursday to an ordinance that phrases the question that will be printed on the November ballot.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bella recovering Vet: Dog lucky to be alive, should survive

    Although a veterinarian said an underweight dog found Thursday with a gruesome neck wound was lucky to be alive, her prognosis for recovery is good.

    July 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • Alleged hit-run driver arrested

    Sharon police said Friday afternoon they had arrested a man believed to have driven a vehicle that struck an 11-year-old boy Thursday and left the scene.

    July 19, 2014

  • Boy ‘was being starved’

    A 7-year-old Greenville boy described as looking like a human skeleton had been starved and beaten by his mother for a year, authorities are saying.

    July 19, 2014

  • Corruption case puts ex-youth leader in rehab program

    The former commander of the local Civil Air Patrol squadron has been admitted into a diversionary program to resolve a criminal case, but the conditions of the program all but forbid his involvement with CAP, his attorney said.

    July 18, 2014

  • GACT’s ‘Steel Magnolias’ opens tonight at Thiel

    Beauty parlor gossip, southern drawls and big hair may sound out of place for Mercer County, but it’s very much a real scene in Thiel College’s William Robinson Theater.

    July 18, 2014

  • Police seek hit-and-run driver who struck boy

    A boy riding a Mongoose bike on Second Avenue in Sharon Thursday evening was struck straight on by a truck whose driver never hit the brakes or looked back, witnesses said.

    July 18, 2014