The Guardian Angels is a non-profit international volunteer organization with the goal of unarmed crime prevention. The Guardian Angels organization was founded on February 13, 1979, in New York City by Curtis Sliwa. Since then, it has expanded to more than 130 cities and 13 countries worldwide.[1]

Guardian Angels
FoundedFebruary 13, 1979
FounderCurtis Sliwa
FocusPublic Safety
Area served

Sliwa originally created the Guardian Angels to combat widespread violence and crime on the New York City Subway system. The organization originally trained members to make citizen's arrests for violent crimes. They patrolled streets and neighborhoods without involving police or any outside authority[2] but also provided educational programs for schools and businesses.

History edit

In the beginning, New York City Mayor Ed Koch publicly opposed the group. Over the years, the controversy has diminished. As citizen involvement and outreach have increased, there has been less public opposition to the group by administration officials. Koch later reversed his stance on the organization,[3] and former New York City Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg have publicly supported the group.

Rules and activities edit

The original and main Guardian Angels activity is "safety patrol" in which members walk the streets or ride transit. Guardian Angels must be in uniform to represent the organization. They can be identified by their red berets and red jackets, or white T-shirts with the red Guardian Angels logo of an eye inside a pyramid on a winged shield.

Chapters operate similarly to franchise networks supporting one another regionally under standard rules, regulations, and training. The Guardian Angels state that it is an equal opportunity organization that encourages diversity.[3]

The organization accepts volunteers with no recent or serious criminal record and are not members of a gang or racial-hate group. To join the safety patrol program, members must be at least 16 years old; youth programs for younger applicants are offered. Safety Patrol members are prohibited from carrying weapons and are physically searched by each other before patrolling. They are trained in first aid, CPR, law, conflict resolution, communication, and basic martial arts. Members are paired up and follow the directions of a patrol leader. If their own or other citizens' lives or health are endangered, they are allowed to do whatever is lawful and necessary.

The Guardian Angels have also begun to include youth programs, teacher programs, disaster response, an Internet safety program called the CyberAngels, and self-defense courses, as well as community outreach program to address issues beyond crime.

The Guardian Angels do not demand or ask for money on the subway.

In the 1980s when they were often seen on the subways, imitators would dress in clothing similar to the Guardian Angels' characteristic dress (including red berets) to impersonate them and solicit money.[4]

CyberAngels edit

CyberAngels was founded in 1995 by "Colin Gabriel Hatcher" as an online "neighborhood watch." Originally, the group monitored chat rooms directly with the intent of apprehending sexual predators. Later, the group took what it had learned and changed its focus to educating police, schools, and families about online abuse and cybercrime. In 1998, CyberAngels received a Presidential Service Award. founder Tony Ricciardi was an early member of the group.[2]

Training edit

In 2009, at the Angels' 30th-anniversary celebration held in New York City and again in 2010 at the World Conference held in San Francisco, founder Curtis Sliwa announced the plan to develop Internet-based training for the organization.

One of the primary goals of the training is to reduce the liability potential for members and for the organization during their physical interventions of crime deterrence.

At the international conference held in Chicago, the Raven Method, developed by member Fernan Vargas, was adopted as the official defensive tactics training system for the organization. This change was signed into effect by Founder Curtis Sliwa, National Director Miguel Fuentes, and International Director Keiji Oda.

Chapters edit

Guardian Angels in Miami

Outside of New York City, the Guardian Angels first established chapters in Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Fresno, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, London, Toronto, Dallas, Tokyo, Houston, Cape Town, Auckland, Savannah, Seattle, and York. Subsequently, the organization established chapters in smaller cities, such as the cities of Springfield and Brockton, Massachusetts; Sacramento and Stockton, California; and Portland, Maine. In May 2011, a chapter was organized in Indianapolis. The Los Angeles, York, Pennsylvania, and Sacramento Chapters worked with official law enforcement officers and agencies.

The Tampa Bay region of Florida has had two Guardian Angels chapters. The first Tampa chapter was established in 1984 and lasted until 1992. A second chapter was established in 1999. In 2017, when the Seminole Heights serial killer was active, the Tampa Bay chapter patrolled the streets of the Seminole Heights neighborhood.[5]

The Guardian Angels have been active in Orlando, Florida, due to the increase in murder and crime rates.[6]

In 2016, the Washington, D.C. chapter announced they would increase their presence on the Washington Metro following an increase in violent crime.[7]

Outside the United States edit

Australia edit

A Guardian Angels chapter actively patrolled in Sydney in the early nineties but disbanded shortly.

A chapter was formed in Canberra, the capital city of Australia in 2008, but has yet to begin patrolling. Some school and internet-safety programs have been conducted. The chapter was closed.

In 2017, a branch was formed in the city of Logan in Queensland. They started patrolling local parks but have since been patrolling the streets and other public places. In 2019, Guardian Angels began patrols in Melbourne and closed 12 months later in 2020.

Canada edit

In Calgary, Alberta, on March 24, 2007, a group of Guardian Angel trainees did one last training patrol, the day before their expected graduation day. They toured the East side of the downtown.

A Toronto chapter was originally formed in 1982 and ran until 1984. A smaller chapter ran briefly in the Parkdale area of Toronto in 1992–1993 but disbanded. The 2005 Boxing Day shooting resulted in the death of teenager Jane Creba on a busy downtown street and provoked renewed attention to law-and-order issues in Canada. Curtis Sliwa stated that he had been contacted by many Torontonians interested in having a local chapter. On July 13, 2006, a new chapter of the Guardian Angels Canada was formed in Toronto. However, both mayor David Miller and police chief Bill Blair stated they were not interested in trying what had not worked twice before.[8] When Sliwa arrived with three other Angels, Miller declined to meet with them, stating that police work was best left to the police. Despite the opposition of the mayor, community groups, and the police chief, the Toronto Chapter moved ahead. 2006 mayoral candidate Jane Pitfield expressed her support for the Guardian Angels, as did former television anchor Peter Kent and former professional boxer (and now radio talk show host) Spider Jones. Toronto's first group of Guardian Angels hit the streets Thursday, July 13 for their inaugural patrol in the city's downtown core. The group's official launch in Toronto came just two days after members were forced to move their graduation ceremony from a seniors residence on Dundas Street.

A Vancouver chapter was in operation as of November 2006. There was a chapter there in the early 1980s. Some of the alumni from that group are assisting with the new chapter.

An attempt to organize a chapter in Ottawa failed after the police and city refused to cooperate plus a negative reaction and lack of interest from the majority of its population.

A Calgary chapter was set up, with the first group finishing its training in March 2007.[9]

A Halifax chapter is in operation as of May 2008. Recent outbreaks of violent crime in Halifax had prompted citizens to contact the Guardian Angels, urging them to start a chapter.[10][11]

Germany edit

In 1993, local Guardian Angels were founded in several German cities like Berlin and Hamburg to patrol the local S-Bahn and U-Bahn facilities.[12][13] Currently, the Guardian Angels are still active in Hanover and have been renamed Schutzengel, which is the German translation of the English denomination.[14]

Japan edit

A local organization of the Guardian Angels was formed in Japan in 1996. The Guardian Angels Japan has chapters in most of the major cities and is second only to America in membership and activities. Keiji Oda, the founder and president of the Guardian Angels Japan, joined the Boston and New York City chapters in the 1980s. The Guardian Angels concept faced opposition in Japan, but Oda succeeded in convincing Japanese officials that the organization would be run by Japanese members for the Japanese people,[citation needed] and the principles of the organization were not just American but universal. Official acceptance culminated with a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2005. The Guardian Angels were the first community organization in Japan to be awarded non-profit status.[15][16]

Mexico edit

In 2007, a chapter formed in Mexico City led by the Canadian professional wrestler Vampiro.[17]

New Zealand edit

In January 2006, the Guardian Angels opened its New Zealand Headquarters in Henderson, a suburb of West Auckland, New Zealand. The New Zealand National Director was Andy "Chieftain" Cawston.

New Zealand's inaugural Guardian Angels Patrol was held on January 13, 2006. The Guardian Angels were active in South Auckland for a short while.

On August 30, 2007, Curtis Sliwa graduated from the Auckland CBD Chapter, led by Anna "Kimodo" Cruse. This Chapter's first official patrol was the following evening.[1]

Members of the Wellington Chapter held their inaugural training and orientation Patrol on October 6, 2006, in the Auckland CBD.

Within New Zealand, The International Alliance of Guardian Angels was recognized and registered as a Charitable Trust for tax purposes. Their headquarters were in the Waitakere Community Center, Ratanui Street, Henderson. In 2016 the New Zealand chapters disbanded.

The Philippines edit

Cybertanod, Role Model Cop, and the Barangay PeaceKeeping Action Team (BPAT) program of The Philippine National Police are some of the contributions of The Guardian Angels Philippines Chapter in Police organization. Joint police programs of the Guardian Angels resulted in national awards for officers and local police stations where the Guardian Angels work. The chapter covered Southern Mindanao and recently expanded into Northern Luzon. Today, the Philippines Chapter aims to spread the program in the Southeast Asia region and is currently developing an independent Citizen Police Organization concept for the region. The local chapter gathers support to host the 1st Joint Police and Guardian Angels Annual International Citizen Safety Patrol as its beyond border initiatives on Guardian Angels violence prevention — Global Public Safety awareness campaign. The effort in Southeast Asia is under the watch of Mike Zarate as National Director for Philippines.

South Africa edit

The Guardian Angels South African Chapter was started by Carl Viljoen in 2004 in Cape Town.[18][19] Other chapters are in Kuilsrivier in the Western Cape and Potchefstroom, North West Province.[20][21]

United Kingdom edit

In London, the Guardian Angels are an independent, non-profit, non-political voluntary organization whose main purpose is to tackle violent crime, act as positive role models for young people, and serve communities in the UK since its formation on May 14, 1989. By 2007, their main numbers had dwindled to almost zero. [citation needed] In the United Kingdom, the law requires that people use only "reasonable force" as appropriate to the situation, which leads Guardian Angel training to focus on using the minimum possible force and only to use force to prevent a dangerous situation from escalating. All violent crimes are reported to the police, and intervention leading to citizens' arrests (legal in Britain) or use of force is only employed in extreme cases. Guardian Angels in the UK are unarmed but all fully trained in self-defence, first aid, and law for personal and community protection.

The London Chapter seemed dormant for several years.[22]

Controversies edit

In 1992, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa issued a public apology for faking several subway rescues in the 1980s in order to get publicity for the group.[23]

In October 2020, various individuals running for the New York City Council expressed concerns that the presence of the Guardian Angels might bring tensions to their neighborhoods.[24]

In February 2021, Patrick Bobilin, a candidate for the New York State Assembly, posted a video to Twitter showing members of the Guardian Angels allegedly harassing and attacking protesters, including Bobilin, as they returned from a Stonewall Inn protest.[25]

In February 2024, several members of the Guardian Angels shoved a man to the sidewalk and put him in a headlock during a live interview with Sliwa at Times Square. During the interview, which came a week after a widely-publicized brawl between several migrants and NYPD officers, Sliwa stated that the man was a migrant. He also stated that the man had been caught shoplifting. In a later segment, he added "[...] Let's just say we gave him a little pain compliance, his mother back in Venezuela felt the vibrations. He's sucking concrete, the cops scraped him off the asphalt[...]" The NYPD later said the man was actually a man from the Bronx, and they did not provide evidence of the man shoplifting. Sliwa told The Associated Press he believed the man was a migrant because he spoke Spanish and had been encountered with other Spanish speakers on patrols. The man was issued a summons for disorderly conduct.[26]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Safety Patrols". Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  2. ^ a b "How the Guardian Angels are trying to keep the peace amid looting". 3 June 2020. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  3. ^ a b "Guardian Angels' Growing Pains". Time. January 18, 1982. Archived from the original on February 19, 2007.
  4. ^ Bird, David; Dunlap, David W. (February 20, 1986). "NEW YORK DAY BY DAY; Impostors in Subways". The New York Times.
  5. ^ "Guardian Angels' patrol of Seminole Heights continues through Halloween". FOX13news. 28 October 2017.
  6. ^ Smalley, Suzanne (March 31, 2007). "Guardian Angels launch city patrol, expand across US". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-07-24.
  7. ^ Hedgpeth, Dana (January 8, 2016). "DC Guardian Angels group says it will patrol Metro more this weekend after attacks". Washington Post.
  8. ^ 'Guardian Angels get bumpy ride in Toronto', CBC News, January 14, 2006
  9. ^ "Angels test their wings". Calgary Herald. March 25, 2007. p. B3. Archived from the original on October 30, 2007. Retrieved March 25, 2007.
  10. ^ "Guardian Angels visiting Halifax". The Daily News. September 11, 2007. Archived from the original on October 31, 2007. Retrieved September 11, 2007.
  11. ^ "Nova Scotia News –". Retrieved 29 September 2017.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Beck, Martin (September 15, 2004). "Gefallen(d)e Engel? Die Guardian Angels in Berlin und Hamburg". Wachen, kontrollieren, patrouillieren. pp. 179–194. doi:10.1007/978-3-322-81012-0_10. ISBN 978-3-8100-4158-6.
  13. ^ Online, FOCUS. "Umstrittene Engel". FOCUS Online.
  14. ^ Rumpf, Frank. "SCHUTZENGEL HANNOVER – Wir über Uns".
  15. ^ "Japan Today article about the Angels". Archived from the original on 10 November 2006. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  16. ^ "Cops to offer ¥100,000 for tips that catch sex traffickers". 19 September 2007. Retrieved 29 September 2017 – via Japan Times Online.
  17. ^ Schapiro, Rich (December 5, 2007). "Former wrestler 'Vampiro' to take bite out of Mexico City crime". Daily News. New York.
  18. ^ "Guardian Angels South Africa – Dare to Care". Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Guardian Angels – South Africa". Archived from the original on 28 March 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  20. ^ "Guardian Angels Potchefstroom". Archived from the original on August 28, 2008.
  21. ^ "Guardian Angels Chapter List". Archived from the original on 5 June 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  22. ^ "Guardian Angels to patrol our streets". Echo. 22 January 2018. Retrieved 2021-11-03.
  23. ^ Gonzalez, David (Nov 25, 1992). "Sliwa Admits Faking Crimes For Publicity". New York Times.
  24. ^ Garber, Nick (2020-10-14). "Guardian Angels Patrol UES, But Not Everyone Wants Them". Patch. Retrieved 2021-02-05.
  25. ^ Offenhartz, Jake (2021-02-05). "Self-Proclaimed Subway Defenders Seen Fighting With Riders In Video". Gothamist. Retrieved 2023-01-26.
  26. ^ "On live TV, Guardian Angels rough up a man in Times Square then misidentify him as a 'migrant'". AP News. February 7, 2024. Retrieved February 8, 2024.

External links edit