Guardian Angels

Guardian Angels
Guardian Angels
Founder(s) Curtis Sliwa
Founded 1979
Location New York City, New York, United States
Area served Global
Focus public safety

The Guardian Angels is a non-profit international volunteer organization of unarmed citizen crime patrollers. The Guardian Angels organization was founded February 13, 1979 in New York City by Curtis Sliwa and has chapters in 15 countries and 144 cities around the world.[1]

Sliwa originally created the organization to combat widespread violence and crime on the New York City Subways. The organization originally trained members to make citizen’s arrests for violent crimes. Today, they often detain criminals instead of making arrests. 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, so did Toronto Mayor David Miller and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair.[citation needed] 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,[2] and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have publicly supported the group.

Controversy on staged rescues

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.[3] 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 areas and subway patrols to recruit new members.


Frank Melvin was shot and killed by a police officer in Newark, New Jersey on December 30, 1981. The officer alleged that Melvin was running toward his partner in a hostile manner. The two officers were responding to a call about a commercial burglary. Members on patrol argued that he was approaching the officer to ask if he could help him. Juan Oliva was shot by a gang member in New York City on July 30, 1983. They were the only two to die while in uniform and on patrol.

Malcolm Brown, a former member, was shot and killed in New York City on July 3, 1980 while trying to help two senior citizens being mugged.

Sherman Geiger, a member, was stabbed and died in New York City on August 24, 1987, while pursuing a burglar. He was not in uniform or on patrol.

Glenn Doser was shot and killed in Los Angeles in March 1993 trying to help a woman who was being mugged. He was not in uniform or on patrol either.[4]

James Richards, a former member and anti-gang activist, was shot and killed near his driveway in Venice, California in October 2000.[5]

Rules and Activities

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 shield with wings.

Chapters operate similar to franchise networks supporting one another regionally under standard rules, regulations, and training. The Guardian Angels state that they are an equal opportunity organization that encourages diversity.

The organization accepts volunteers who do not have a recent or serious criminal record and are not members of a gang or racial hate group. In order to join the Safety Patrol program, members must be at least 16 years old; while youth programs for younger applicants are offered. Safety Patrol members are prohibited from carrying weapons and are physically searched before patrolling. They are trained in first aid and CPR, law, conflict resolution, communication, and basic martial arts. Members are paired up and follow the directions of a Patrol Leader. In case their own or other citizens life or health is endangered they are, however, 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, self-defense courses, as well as community outreach addressing issues beyond crime.


CyberAngels was founded in 1995 by Gabriel Hatcher as an online "neighborhood watch". Originally the group monitored chatrooms 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 on-line abuse and cyber crime. In 1998, CyberAngels received a Presidential Service Award. founder Tony Ricciardi was an early member of the group.


In 2009 at the 30th Anniversary celebration held in New York City, and then again in 2010 at the World Conference held in San Francisco, CA founder Curtis Sliwa announced the plan to develop an internet-based training for the organization.

The plan as announced was first to solidify the standards for the organization so that members from around the world could easily interact and patrol effectively together without much re-training. The other goal for the training included an effort towards reducing the liability potential for members and for the organization during their physical interventions of crime deterrence.

In 1992 a New York Times article discusses the lack of training faced by recruits and members of the organization. This project was given to Peter Steeves of the Los Angeles Chapter, and the result was a free membership site open to the public at[6]


Guardian Angels in Miami

The Guardian Angels USA have first established chapters in Washington, D. C., New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, London, Toronto, Dallas, Tokyo, Houston, Cape Town, Auckland, Savannah, Seattle, and York, (Pennsylvania). Recently, the organization has established chapters in smaller cities, such as - the Massachusetts cities of Springfield and Brockton; other smaller city chapters recently organized include Sacramento and Stockton, California and Portland, Maine. In May 2011, a chapter organized in Indianapolis, Indiana as well.

The Los Angeles, York and Sacramento Chapters worked with official law enforcement officers and agencies.

Sacramento Chapter

The Sacramento Chapter of The Guardian Angels was the 3rd chapter formed in California, following the Los Angeles and San Francisco chapters. At its height, the Chapter consisted of over 50 people ranging in age from 16 to 50 years old. There, the police worked closely with the local chapter and supplied a phone number and a liaison officer for them to use within their P.O.P. (People Orientated Police) division. The chapter headquarters was a rent-free half of a commercial medical duplex for several years. The Sacramento Chapter also featured a "bike patrol" to help provide additional "eyes and ears" along the American River Parkway. Using CB radios, patrols could call back to the headquarters and have the freedom not to depend upon public pay telephones to call the Sacramento Police.[citation needed]

Patrols ranged from 20 to as few as 2 Angels, though a minimum of 3 people was the standard. Members were assigned positions and in specific locations of a patrol: the Patrol Leader was at the front, Communications was beside or behind, Runners came next and would usually be the majority of the patrol, along with the 2nd, who was in charge of keeping the patrol organized at the rear. Angels unable to go on patrols typically monitored the CB radio at the headquarters. Thus, a chapter could enlist volunteers who were legally considered handicapped. When a situation required immediate physical action on a patrol, the Patrol Leader would send the Runners under the direction of the 2nd and either send the Communications person (with another Angel) to find a phone and call police, or to radio the situation to Chapter Headquarters to call a P.O.P. officer. When on bicycles, the 2nd and a Runner would leave bikes with the Patrol Leader. Long-distance communications between the parts of a patrol were achieved by specific patterns of blown whistles, of which every member was required to have along with a working pen, pad of paper, and flashlight.

The Sacramento Chapter went freely throughout the entire city and surrounding areas, ranging from North Highlands to the then (1980's) gang-infested Oak Park neighbourhood, then further south into the Meadowview and Pocket Areas. Walking sometimes 10 miles during the course of a 4-hour patrol, Angels even crossed the Sacramento River into neighbouring Yolo County to patrol what was then the communities of Bend and Brite, now incorporated into West Sacramento. The Oak Park patrols went through what was Crips territory, a gang originating in Los Angeles. The Crips were identified by blue rags hanging from their pockets; their rival gang, the Bloods, did the same thing but used red rags. Since the uniform of the Guardian Angels is a red and white t-shirt, the Crips at the time considered them enemies while the Bloods saw them as weak fakes of their own gang.

On occasion, the Sacramento Chapter patrols used cars to reach areas that were too far to walk, and several times the Sacramento Chapter was called into service in other cities, helping launch the chapter in Stockton CA. Both helped with special events in San Francisco, such as the Halloween-time Erotic Exotic Ball. They traveled as far away as Los Angeles, where with the local chapter they officially assisted the police with crowd control during the Rose Bowl Parade.

The Guardian Angels were mostly greeted favourably in the city, and sought out by the media to comment upon crime and local issues. Press conferences were held during the tense time before Eric Royce Leonard, dubbed the "Thrill Killer", was arrested in 1991 and during the controversial Sacramento debut of Colors about the Bloods and Crips. Because of the stance of the Guardian Angels in response to Leonard's murders of three Round Table Pizza employees, the Old Sacramento restaurant offered free dinner for one patrol each and every Saturday and Sunday night.[citation needed]


Los Angeles Chapter

The organization's first chapter on the West coast was formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, California. It grew quickly, reaching its peak in membership in the mid-1980s with 6 sub-chapters and over 250 members. However, membership dropped in the 1990s and by 2000 there was only a single Venice Beach sub-chapter remaining in the city.

There were a few attempts to restart the Los Angeles Chapter in 2003 and 2004 with eventual success in 2006. Alex Makarczyk, who previously served in the Los Angeles Chapter in the Mid-1980s, worked to restore the chapter after James Richards, a fellow Guardian Angel was shot to death outside his home on October 18, 2000. He was not on patrol when he was gunned down in the early morning hours, but he was assisting local law enforcement with information about drug-related crime in his neighbourhood.

Other chapters

As of 1993, the Guardian Angels have been active in Orlando, Florida due to the increase in murder and crime rates.[8] A group in Boston, Massachusetts followed in 2007, at first to the opposition of Mayor Tom Menino who eventually supported the group due to the welcoming the Angels received from the people. Residents of Brockton, Massachusetts launched a chapter in March 2008 in response to a rise in street violence, and they were quickly able to build a working relationship with the city's police chief. In 2010 they started recruiting in Portland, Oregon.
In 2007 they started recruiting in Kansas City, Missouri and a chapter was started with 5 local GA graduates in October of 2008. After being told by the National Training Director (3rd Rail from Chicago) that they had to make 3 arrests per month the chapter asked about this new directive and at that time was told they never even had a chapter (even though they had been on local TV many times on patrol and in News reports/interviews). The KC GA Chapter soon disbanded and now patrol their city on their own from vehicles seeking persons of interest and criminal activity.

Outside the United States


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 ever be awarded non-profit status.[9][10]

Four members of the Japanese Guardian Angels appear in an episode of Insomniac with Dave Attell filmed in Tokyo. Dave interviews them before their attention is diverted to an (apparently) drunk and disorderly individual.


A chapter of the Guardian Angels was established in the State of Israel. The Guardian Angels Israel is led by Jill Shames a social activist and martial artist who completed Aliyah, the Jewish Return to Israel. Guardian Angels Israel has completed a few Safety Patrols but primarily works with at risk youth in the Jewish Ethiopian (Falasha) immigrant population.

United Kingdom

In London the Guardian Angels have been active since 1989; by 2007 their numbers had dwindled to group of around 12. In the United Kingdom, the law requires that people use only "reasonable force" as appropriate to the situation, which leads to Guardian Angel training to centre on using the minimum possible force, and to only 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.[11]

Their presence in London was controversial in the first decade of existence, with press articles accusing the group of vigilantism or attempting to avoid paying for travel on the London Underground whilst wearing their colours. In 1989, discussion in Parliament raised the possibility of American members of the Guardian Angels being declared persona non grata owing to their presence being "not conducive to the public good" but this was rejected.[12]

The Manchester Chapter was established around 1991 and ceased operating in 94-95. The Chapter was run by Ian McMahon and then Steven Smith who took over as chapter leader until its closure. The group in Manchester had approximately six active angels.

South Africa

The Guardian Angels South African Chapter was started by Carl Viljoen in 2004 in Cape Town.[13][14] Other chapters are in Kuilsriver, Cape Town, Western Cape and Potchefstroom, North West Province.[15][16]


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, and 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 formed in Toronto, Ontario. However, both mayor David Miller and police chief Bill Blair stated they were not interested in trying what had not worked twice before.[17] When Sliwa arrived with 3 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.

A attempt to organise 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.[18]

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.[19][20]

New Zealand

In January 2006, the Guardian Angels opened its New Zealand Headquarters in Henderson, a suburb of Waitakere City west of Auckland, New Zealand's fifth largest and largest cities respectively (to be amalgamated with others into a "super-city" in 2010). The NZ National Director is Andy "Chieftain" Cawston.

New Zealand's inaugural Guardian Angels Patrol was held on January 13, 2006. Since then, Guardian Angels have also been active in South Auckland; however the activities of that Chapter have been temporarily halted for logistical purposes.

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

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 is recognized and registered as a Charitable Trust for tax purposes. Their headquarters is the Henderson Returned Services Association Inc. offices on Railside Avenue, Henderson, NZ.

The Philippines

Cybertanod, Role Model Cop and 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 receiving national awards for officers and local police stations where the Guardian Angels works. The chapter covered Southern Mindanao and recently expand in Northern Luzon. Today, the Philippines Chapter aimed to spread the program in South East Asia region and currently developing independent Citizen Police Organization concept for the region. The local chapter presently gathers supports 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 South East Asia is under the watch of Mike Zarate as National Director for Philippines.


In 2007, a chapter formed in Mexico City led by the Canadian professional wrestler Vampiro.[21]


A Guardian Angels chapter actively patrolled in Sydney in the early nineties, but disbanded after a short time.

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.


Two chapters are currently present in Italy: Bologna and Sassari

Depictions in media and popular culture

The 1981 CBS made-for-TV movie We're Fighting Back, featuring Bronx-born Ellen Barkin, was based on the Guardian Angels. Angels members signed releases giving Warner Bros. permission to depict their lives. In some cases, their brand or identity is used by others.

The 1982 song "Red Angel Dragnet" by The Clash was inspired by the murder of Frank Melvin,[22][23] and praises the Guardian Angels for their work.

While performing in World Championship Wrestling, Ray Traylor wrestled under the alias "The Guardian Angel" for a short time, complete with an authentic Guardian Angels uniform.[citation needed]

In 1998, the Angels authorized Casio to release a limited edition of G-Shock Guardian Angels Raysman watch (DW9300GA-4T, module 1584), dominated by Red with Black accent. Around metal bezel, it is printed "We Dare to Care", "Guardian Angels" & "Safety Patrol". The watch also features a titanium caseback with Guardian Angels logo.[citation needed]

The Guardian Angels were spoofed in the 2006 video game Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories as "The Avenging Angels" but instead with green bomber type jackets.[citation needed]

In the "Bums: Making a Mess All Over the City" episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Mac and Dee become vigilantes that mimic the Guardian Angels.[24]

In the sketch comedy TV show In Living Color Jim Carey plays "Dickie Peterson, Cherub of Justice," a thinly veiled spoof of the Guardian Angels.[citation needed]

In the Channel 4 comedy sketch show Trigger Happy TV Dom Joly played a spoof of a Guardian Angel on the London Underground railway service and at a bus stop. The sketch involved Joly pretending to be a Guardian Angel dressed in full regalia who would then stand up and shout out that he was there to protect the public from harm, much to the displeasure and embarrassment of those around him.[25]

In the Ultimatum episode of The Office, Dwight Schrute is seen to be secretary of a group wearing red beanies called Knights of the Night which although often compared to the Guardian Angels "could not be more different than them".[26]

In the US version of the video 'Say Something' by the British band James, two Guardian Angels are depicted in their trademark red berets and bomber jackets.

In Batman Begins Commissioner Loeb discusses people suspected as Batman and the Guardian Angels was on the list of suspects.

See also


  1. ^ About the Angels', dated October 11, 2010
  2. ^ Guardian Angel's Growing Pains in Time Magazine, dated January 18th, 1982
  3. ^ Gonzalez, David (November 25, 1992). Sliwa Admits Faking Crimes For Publicity. New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-01. 
  4. ^ Moffat, Susan (March 22, 1993). "Guardian Angels Seek Public's Help". The Los Angeles Times. 
  5. ^ Piccalo, Gina; Streeter, Kurt (October 19, 2000). "Venice Anti-Gang Activist Killed in His Driveway". The Los Angeles Times. 
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ 05/17/2008: Volunteers Warning Residents About Serial Stabber - CBS13 TV 03/26/2007: Curtis Sliwa Launches Bicycle Patrol - Sacramento Bee Newspaper 10/21/2005: Anti-crime walk for Del Paso Boulevard - Sacramento Bee Newspaper 10/20/2005: Red Angel dragnet - SN&R News Review Magazine Guardian Angels Official Website | url =
  8. ^ Smalley, Suzanne (March 31, 2007). "Guardian Angels launch city patrol, expand across US". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-07-24. 
  9. ^ Japan Today article about the Angels
  10. ^ Angels running an anonymous tip line in Japan
  11. ^ Fallen Angels
  12. ^ Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs
  13. ^ Guardian Angels South Africa | Dare to Care
  14. ^ Guardian Angels - South Africa
  15. ^ Guardian Angels Potchefstroom
  16. ^ Guardian Angels Chapter List
  17. ^ 'Guardian Angels get bumpy ride in Toronto', CBC News, January 14, 2006
  18. ^ "Angels test their wings". Calgary Herald: p. B3. March 25, 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-25. 
  19. ^ "Guardian Angels visiting Halifax". The Daily News. September 11, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 
  20. ^ Nova Scotia News -
  21. ^ Schapiro, Rich (December 5, 2007). "Former wrestler 'Vampiro' to take bite out of Mexico City crime". Daily News (New York). 
  22. ^ Gray, Marcus (2005) [1995]. The Clash: Return of the Last Gang in Town (5th revised ed.). London: Helter Skelter. p. 380. ISBN 1905139101. OCLC 60668626. 
  23. ^ Monday, Jan. 18, 1982 (1982-01-18). "Time Magazine article 18 January 1982 ''Guardian Angels' Growing Pains''".,9171,949448,00.html. Retrieved 2010-04-03. 
  24. ^ IMDb
  25. ^
  26. ^ DaemonsTV

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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