In a recent interview with Black Entertainment Television (BET), actor Matt Damon expressed his concern with the Stand Your Ground Law in Florida:
“The stand your ground law, I think is, is, is, I hope that they would revisit that. I mean I lived in Florida for five years, so we can’t have a world you know where people are putting guns in their pockets walking around looking for, thinking you know, that they’re the neighborhood watch. You know, I mean we have a police force for that and we should leave the novices at home.”
Although Mr. Damon is entitled to his own opinion, he is not entitled to his own facts. Let’s look at how he dismisses the concept of neighborhood watches.
According to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) study using information from 1977 to 1994, neighborhood watches were associated with a 16% decrease in crime. However the results are mixed depending on the type of neighborhood watch program used. On the other side, a study conducted in 2002 by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) claims that neighborhood watches are ineffective. The main reason is the areas with higher crime are full of people who are reluctant to organize and are distrusting of their own neighbors. It’s rather deceiving to say that a neighborhood watch doesn’t work when the citizens don’t bother to get together to form one.
Now, let’s look at his belief that the police force is there to protect our neighborhoods.
Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County has run a radio ad urging citizens to take up arms and defend themselves. Sheriff Clarke says in the ad, “With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option…”
While this sounds like an unusual request from a Sheriff, he does make the citizens of his county aware that he just doesn’t have enough cops to respond to their calls. Even if Sheriff Clarke had a full staff, it’s not as if there would be a deputy at the ready at all times; the same goes with police departments. There simply isn’t a police officer on every street corner keeping our neighborhoods safe. According to the Department of Justice report Criminal Victimization in the United States 2008 Statistical Tables, a law enforcement officer responding to the scene of a violent crime within 5 minutes only happens roughly 28% of the time. The percentage significantly decreases to a little over 12% if the police are responding to a property crime. That’s a long time to wait when your life or property is in peril.
Finally, Matt Damon never considered the fact that the police are under no obligation to protect us from a crime. Let me take a moment to say that I have friends and a relative that work in law enforcement. These are some of the bravest and upstanding citizens that you will ever find serving their community. The few examples I’m about to give in this article in no way reflects the dedication a majority of our law enforcement officers have to their duty. With that said, I wish point to the lawsuit filed by Joseph Lozito. Mr. Lozito was attacked by Maksim Gelman, a crazed man who was on a 28-hour stabbing spree in New York City that left 4 people dead and 4 others injured. Mr. Lozito was able to defend himself by using some mixed martial arts moves he saw on television. Although he did save himself, he suffered some stab wounds to his head and hands. Mr. Lozito’s filed the lawsuit claiming there were two police officers on the train at the time of the attack and they failed to protect him from a wanted murderer. The police were only a few feet away in the motorman’s booth and did not come out of the booth until Mr. Lozito subdued Gelman. Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Margaret Chan threw out the case stating the law does not allow Mr. Lozito to claim the cops failed to protect him. Many think that this judge that made a bad call, but in 2005 the US Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement does not have a constitutional duty to protect you from harm.*
Well, Matt Damon must not have thought this whole thing through. I can’t say for certain if he hires armed security or not–but he does have that choice if he wishes. The majority of us don’t have that luxury. So, if we shouldn’t be allowed to legally carry weapons, we shouldn’t be allowed to stand our ground or participate in neighborhood watches, and there is no guarantee that the police will be there to save us, then who is there to protect us?
* The two exceptions being the special relationship clause and the state-created danger clause.