We spend a day with the Guardian Angels, a second-wave resurgence of the 70’s crime fighting group that says it’s back protecting the streets and subways of New York City after a series of slashings earlier this year.
The Guardian Angels is a non-profit international volunteer organization of unarmed crime-prevention patrollers. The Guardian Angels organization was founded February 13, 1979 in New York City by Curtis Sliwa and has more than 130 chapters around the world.
Sliwa originally created the organization 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. The organization patrols the streets and neighborhoods but also provides education programs and workshops for schools and businesses.
In the beginning, New York City Mayor Ed Koch publicly opposed the group. Many government officials also opposed the group whenever they attempted to open a chapter in their cities, including Toronto Mayor David Miller and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair. Over the years, the controversy has died down in many cities; and as citizen involvement and outreach has increased, there has been less public opposition to the group by administration officials. Ed Koch later reversed his stance on the organization, and former New York City Mayors Rudolph Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg have publicly supported the group.
In 1992, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa issued a public apology for staging several subway rescues in the 1980s in order to get publicity for the group. Since the statute of limitations on filing false police reports had expired, no charges were brought against him or the organization. Sliwa also admitted that the New York City Chapter primarily patrolled the Restaurant Row section of midtown Manhattan, except for occasional well-publicized patrols in other neighborhoods and subway patrols to recruit new members.