In the months before their fatal meeting, Zimmerman’s Twin Lakes community was hit by a crime wave that saw young black men commit a number of break-ins and burglaries. As the collapse of Florida’s housing market took its toll on the community, depressing home values and driving up crime, Zimmerman and his neighbors increasingly began to fear for their safety and for the security of their homes. Reuters reports that in the 14 months before Martin was killed, there were at least eight burglaries reported in Twin Lakes. Residents also reported dozens of attempted break-ins and incidents of burglars casing homes. Zimmerman’s city of Sanford was especially hard hit. According to Neighborhood Scout, a website that aggregates crime in American cities, on a 100-point scale where 100 is most safe and zero is least safe, Sanford had a dismal rating of 3.
Zimmerman was well aware of the breadth of the crime problem in Sanford. Indeed, he was one of the victims. The Reuters report notes that in July 2011, a black teenager walked up to Zimmerman’s front porch and stole a bicycle. Zimmerman also saw his neighbors victimized by burglars. On August 3, just a few months after his bicycle had been stolen, two black men broke into the home of Zimmerman’s neighbor Olivie Bertalan and attempted to steal her television. Bertalan, then home alone with her infant son, called the police, who arrived just as the burglars fled. Police reports show that Bertalan subsequently reported a digital camera and a laptop computer as stolen. Among those who had seen the robbery was Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, who witnessed a black male teenager running through her backyard and reported it to the police.
Such incidents suggest that Zimmerman was justified in worrying about crime in Sanford. If he was suspicious of unfamiliar black men in his neighborhood, he was not the only one. “People were freaked out,” Bertalan told Reuters. “It wasn’t just George calling police … we were calling police at least once a week.” Significantly, those worried about crime committed by young black men included Zimmerman’s black neighbors. One black neighbor interviewed by Reuters said:
“Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I’m black, OK? There were black boys robbing houses in this neighborhood. That’s why George was suspicious of Trayvon Martin.”
Tellingly, the woman refused to be identified. One can hardly blame her. By investing Martin’s shooting with racial connotations, the popular media and race demagogues like Al Sharpton have already incited a violent backlash, with black militants attacking whites under the banner of “justice for Trayvon.” That she wouldn’t wish to join the list of casualties of this racial revenge is understandable.