From March 8th Edition of Trenton Times
Guardian Angels plan return to Trenton
Leader: Resident foot patrols are needed
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
By MICHAEL RATCLIFFE
TRENTON -- They wear the color red.
They walk the streets with a confident swagger.
But make no mistake, they're not gang members.
They're the Guardian Angels, and they are coming to Trenton.
Noting that gang violence in the city has escalated to the point where members of rival Bloods factions are killing each other, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa said the time has come to start a Trenton chapter of the internationally known citizens' crime-fighting organization.
Sliwa, interviewed by phone yesterday, said he will visit Trenton today with a delegation of Guardian Angels members from Northern New Jersey and Philadelphia and begin efforts to organize a local chapter of the Guardian Angels.
He said he hopes to meet with Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and Police Director Joseph Santiago and present them with personal letters enlisting their support.
Organized in New York City in 1979, the organization has chapters in 60 cities worldwide. Guardian Angel members, each sporting a red beret, work in groups to patrol the streets of crime-plagued neighborhoods to deter crimes, alert police to problems and, at times, exercise their rights to make a citizen's arrest.
Neither Palmer nor Santiago was aware yesterday of Sliwa's plans to visit the city or to form a Trenton chapter of the Guardian Angels until told by reporters.
Both said they looked forward to hearing what Sliwa proposes.
"This is the first I've heard of it, but I'm aware of the fine reputation the Guardian Angels have in working with local police and the community to make the streets safer," Palmer said.
`'I also know of the fine work Mother Mary Reeves did with the Guardian Angels in Trenton 20 years ago," Palmer added, referring to a group of Guardian Angels that was formed in Trenton in 1981 and patrolled city streets during the 1980s.
"I look forward to sitting down with them," Palmer said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to form a strong partnership."
Sliwa explained what prompted the return of the Guardian Angels to Trenton.
"For the last year we've been getting calls and e-mails from Mercer County -- mostly from Trenton -- about the escalating gang violence problem. A month ago it reached a crescendo. People were writing about Bloods vulturing Bloods."
Then, Sliwa said, he was contacted by Robert Stout, leader of the Hills Place neighborhood crime watch in South Trenton.
Stout, who had been a Guardian Angels member "in good standing" in the 1980s in Philadelphia, told Silwa the gang problem in Trenton was "way out of hand" and he wanted to start a Guardian Angels chapter in Trenton, Sliwa said.
Sliwa conceded last night he had not yet notified Palmer's office or city police about his plans but hopes they will welcome the Guardian Angels with the same eagerness that then-Mayor Arthur J. Holland did in 1981.
After meeting with Palmer and police, Sliwa said he and his delegation plan to tour Trenton to speak with residents and work to generate interest in the local chapter. They will then work with Stout to lay the groundwork for the group.
To become a member of the Guardian Angels, he said, a candidate must undergo a detailed background check and complete a three-month program that includes self-defense training, CPR and first-aid training, education about the law and what a citizen is legally allowed to do, and simulations of situations they might encounter while on street patrol.
"We want to build a working relationship with the police so we can be their eyes and ears," Sliwa said.
Good. They're a great group.
I remember as a kid seeing their patrols and asking my mother who they were. It was always inspiring. Curtis Sliwa is a great man, if not rough around the edges.