One lawmaker is proposing legislation that aims to keep neighborhoods safe for kids, seniors and families.
Appleton Republican Steve Wieckert wants to encourage citizens to watch out for wrongdoing in their community and report it to the police. One of Wieckert's bills ( AB-624) would make it illegal to interfere or harass volunteers in the Neighborhood Watch Program. The second bill ( AB-690 ) would make Neighborhood Watch volunteers immune from civil prosecution.
"In other words, drug dealers and gang members cannot sue Neighborhood Watch people for doing their Neighborhood Watch activities. We compare that to the good Samaritan law."
In some states, Wieckert explains, there was a problem getting people to volunteer.
"Because what is happening is drug dealers were suing them, taking them to court. And I hate to say it but it's the drug dealers and gang members that know the law fairly well because they're experienced with it. I mean they go to court, they were in front of judges, they go to prison, they know the law. They turn it around and use it on innocent people who are trying to protect their neighborhoods."
This is not vigilante, Wieckert says, the Neighborhood Watch simply offers another set of eyes and ears for law enforcement, allowing members to report suspicious activity. The program is approved and coordinated by law enforcement, using manuals and guidelines to train volunteers.
"They are the eyes and ears of the community that the police need so badly. They're there in real time. They're there all the time. They live there."
Wieckert is also introducing a bill ( AB-692 ) that would allow for a fast track eviction for drug dealers.
The Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice held a public hearing on Wieckert's bills last week.