I called Jerry Longoria, Chapter Leader for the San Francisco Guardian Angels, to see if he could give me some insight into the actions of his beret-wearing troops. Our conversation started off on a positive note as Longoria enthusiastically described the day-to-day work of the Angels, who are all volunteers: “We patrol. We walk on foot, as a team, fighting crime and violence in certain neighborhoods like the Mission, Tenderloin, and Haight Ashbury.” He also told me that “Neighbors know who we are, different countries know who we are, because we stand for the good. In that way, we keep neighborhoods safe.”
“So, what do you do, exactly, when you patrol?” I asked.
“We’re trained, skilled, organized,” Longoria told me. “We take calls, have an office, organize a team, walk the streets, and clean up the area.”
“Well, what do you do… exactly… to clean up the area?” I tried.
“We stand for people who can’t help themselves,” Longoria said.
“But … how?” I asked.
Longoria told me they make citizen arrests. I got excited, and asked for more details. The last arrest took place six months ago, when they found a teenager rolling a joint on the street.
“So… in the past six months.. what else have you done?”
This went on for awhile longer, in the vein of a Monty Python skit, until I brought up the Mission Mission and SFist blog posts and told Longoria that I was asking because many of the people his chapter strives to protect do not understand how, exactly, they are being protected.
“Well, we have limitations. We can’t be everywhere at once.” Longoria said, after angrily accusing me of trying to write “negative press.”
“So, would you say that it’s your presence itself that makes people feel safe?” I finally tried.
“I guess that’s what you want me to say,” said Longoria, “But there’s really a lot more to it than that. It would take me over two hours to fully explain. It’s too hard over the phone.”
If any readers really want me to go down to Longoria’s office and spend over two hours learning what the Guardian Angels do when they patrol, by all means, let me know. But you better buy me a few drinks after.
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