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Sarasota Police and city leaders prepare for Zimmerman verdict

Sarasota, Florida- The George Zimmerman murder trial will soon be in the hands of a jury. In the meantime, Sarasota police, city and community leaders are preparing for reaction to the verdict, and they held a press conference Thursday asking the community to stay calm.

Sarasota's Police Chief Bernadette DiPino said she has not received any threats of violent protests being planned for after the verdict, but she is simply being proactive. 

Thursday's press conference was in line with her philosophy of using community policing to prevent crime, build trust and a strong relationship with citizens.

"The sides have been drawn...opinions are there," said Scott Green.

Scott and his brother watched the Zimmerman trial coverage over a burger at Sarasota's Hob Nob Drive-In along US 301 on Thursday. 

"It's been blown up to be this great big thing, that ins't any different than any other trial," said Jon. "The question is the gun law."

But law enforcement sees it differently- as a trial with a potentially volatile outcome.    

"We ask for words, not weapons. We ask for unity not injury," said Chief DiPino during the press conference at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park. 

Chief DiPino wants a "peaceful response."

"What I am asking fir from law-abiding citizens, is don't allow criminals to use this instance, or any other situation like this, to hurt innocent people, to steal or destroy our businesses or our community," she said.

But will this plea make a difference? 

"They can ask, but I don't' think anyone is going to listen," said Kia Searlen. 

Kia said emotions are running high with the George Zimmerman trial, ans that though she hopes for a guilty verdict, she thinks Zimmerman will walk.

"I think it may get crazy. There's going to be violence towards it, because of it," she said.

As for Chief Dipino, we asked why assume people would react violently? Could their message of prevention only encourage violence? 

"No," DiPino replied. "We are all about crime prevention- do everything we can to get the information out."

However, some people are offended by the assumptions that citizens will riot. 

"The assumption is we take sides. I don't care what George Zimmerman did," Jon told us.

Chief DiPino also asked church leaders and civic groups to use their sites as a gathering place for citizens to talk and discuss the verdict. 

The police chief even said her office is open too.     

Follow 10 News Reporter Isabel Mascarenas on twitter @IzzyMascarenas