Sanford police want smaller neighborhood watch groups



SANFORD, Fla. - A controversy is brewing in Sanford over neighborhood watch groups.

Channel 9 has learned Police Chief Cecil Smith is working to break down existing neighborhood watch groups into smaller ones. Smith is looking into watch groups with only about 20 homeowners in each group.

But dozens of residents are currently part of a large neighborhood watch group that covers south and southeast of downtown Sanford, and the leader of that group wrote a letter to Smith saying she's is pulling out of the program.

"It's neighborhood watch, not police watch," resident Wanda Chandler said.

Chandler has been head of the Sanford Watchers for years, but she's now considering throwing in the towel.

Smith has been working with the groups for months and encouraging smaller watch groups, but Chandler is worried what this could mean for her group.

"What are you going to do to those groups already existing? You cannot tear them apart," Chandler said.

Sanford Watchers started as a way to disseminate information to community members in order to keep people informed. Chandler wants to keep the group going, but doesn't want to fall under the control of the police department.

"I just don't think they thought about the groups that are already in existence. I don't think they gave them any consideration," Chanlder said.

But Smith said he did, and his team has been reaching out to Chandler and other watch groups for some time. Smith believes smaller groups under the supervision of the police department are better because ultimately the city is liable for their actions.

New neighborhood watch captains chosen by the department were trained in January and it recommended the watch captains not carry guns. The changes came after the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.