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Crime: In Defense of Accused Neighborhood Watch Patrolman

January 20, 1994

Westside's story (Dec. 26) on William Nason, the Hollywood area Neighborhood Watch patrolman who faces an attempted murder charge, may be the most significant story of the new year in our crime-wracked city.

During my years in Neighborhood Watch, we conducted a poll of our 142 homes to make sure our neighbors approved and appreciated our dangerous volunteer work on their behalf. When I say "dangerous," there are two ways of conducting Neighborhood Watch. One is to just watch. The other way, the only right way, is to firmly accost the predator and suggest he move on and stop casing the old woman's balcony. But never create a physical altercation.

All 142 homes surveyed approved our work--100%. But 95% of them flunked the next question--would they help? No, for various reasons they could not help. And they get crime because they tolerate crime.

On the word of one member of Neighborhood Watch, and refuted by all six others in the patrol that night, Nason was arrested for attempted murder. By Hollywood police, too busy and too undermanned to arrest criminals, but not to arrest model citizens out to protect their neighborhoods.

And Nason, the Neighborhood Watchman, a 28-yearold model citizen, had gone out previously on more than 300 midnight patrols without a single physical altercation.

What is the city maintaining? That a Neighborhood Watchman has no right to defend himself from attack by the monsters against whom he patrols, while most of the neighborhood sleeps and the LAPD wrings its hands over too few officers to enforce the law. If that is so, then Nason has no defense. Just submit to being stabbed--don't fight back.

In that case, Neighborhood Watch must be disbanded at once. And our city's pitiful effort to increase "community policing" must be aborted in its tracks.

But if self-defense is permissible, then how much? What better judge of degree than the patrol person being attacked?

THEODORE HOWARD

Los Angeles

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