guardian-angels.jpgIn the wake of the recent spate of the violence in the Mission, two very different groups are upping their presence in the area. The first is the San Francisco Police Department. According to SFPD Chief Jeff Godown, the SFPD is planning on reallocating resources from other neighborhoods to deal with the string of shootings that’s been largely blamed on the escalating conflict between the rival Norteno and Sureno gangs.

The second group, the Guardian Angels, is slightly more unconventional. You may recognize the Guardian Angels from their red berets, white t-shirts and inability to be actual police officers. Started by founder Curtis Sliwa in late 1970’s New York City, the Guardian Angels are now an international group that organizes anti-crime citizen’s patrols in urban areas around the world. The organization has been in San Francisco for years but have recently seen a significant uptick in activity.


The group was previously patrolling the Mission twice a week and, after the recent string of murders, have upped that number to four times a week.

Not being actual cops, the group isn’t allowed to arrest suspects. Instead they’re in the practice of making citizens arrests–much like Paris Hilton’s sister Nicky attempted to do outside of a Los Angels IHOP and various hippies have unsuccessfully attempted to do to Karl Rove.

That said, they haven’t made one of these citizens arrests in over six months and the last one they attempted involved apprehending a teenager in the midst of rolling a joint. Other recent Guardian Angel activity has included dumping the beers of revelers at Dolores Park, handcuffing a kid suspected of skipping on a Muni fare and calling a local blogger a “pussy.”

This isn’t to say that the sole activity of the group is harassing youngsters on public transportation and stopping hipsters from frolicking in their natural habitat. What the Guardian Angels are really involved in is security theatre. There’s not all that much they can do to directly prevent crime and, let’s be honest, these people are really not all that intimidating to real-life gang members. The idea is to let criminals know that there’s someone out there ready and willing to alert the authorities if they see something suspicious–like a roving, garishly dressed neighborhood watch.

Even if, in the end, what they do is relatively ineffectual, they’re a group claiming to represent the greater community attempting to “take back the streets” which should be applauded. At least in the abstract.

However, there isn’t a consensus that the Guardian Angels’ presence in the Mission is a good thing. While some Mission residents say that seeing the group on patrol makes them feel safe, others argue that gang members are only violent towards each other and the pretense of the Guardian Angels only brings the rest of the community into the conflict.

There’s a perception, partially due to their dress code, that the group is comprised of nothing but full-on, grade-A nutbags, but eye-catching attire is essential for a group whose function is 90% optics. That said, they give themselves names like “Scorpion”, “Nemo” and “Greencard” that makes the group seem like overgrown kids playing dress up.

There’s also the issue of the downright bizarre interview the group’s San Francisco area leader, Jerry Longoria, gave to the Appeal’s own Katie Baker a couple years ago.

A 1985 report by the San Diego Association of Governments found that, “the Angels may not reduce the violent offenses they seek to prevent they seek to prevent although they may have limited impact on property crimes[and] segments of the population feel safe when Angels patrol which may be associated with the Angels performing an order maintenance role.”

Whether they’re crazy wanna-be vigilantes or a useful support system for for an over-burdened police force is up for debate however, you can rest assured that those Dolores Park hipsters whose beers the Angels recently dumped will all be ironically wearing those red berets in a year or two. Wearing them like a uniform.

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  • sfsooz

    informative and hilarious — great article. +3 for such cromulent use of “nutbag.” thanks!

  • Adam Kratt

    It is obvious by Aaron Sankin’s article that he is greatly misinformed about the Guardian Angels. While they do mae citizens arrests (and a citizens arrest is just as real as an arrest made by a police officer) that is not their primary function. They are a visual deterence to crime. And the lack of recently making a citizens arrest does not equate with being inactive. On any given week one can find the Guardian Angels in the Tenderloin area or in the Mission District breaking up fights and stopping crime. The San Francisco Guardian Angels on average remove 20 or more dirty needles off the sidewalks on a patrol and dispose of them in sharps containers. They also dispose of crack pipes confiscated and hand narcotics over to police officers. The SF Guardian Angels also regularly provide first aid to homeless in the Tenderloin and Mission Districts. Perhaps the Guardian Angels aren’t Aaron’s cup of tea.. but besides ranting in this column what is Aaron doing to make his community safer? There is well documented cases of Guardian Angels intervening in domestic violence, stopping rape, stopping tagging and disrupting the selling of narcotics through out the world. Guardian Angels have confiscated guns of off gang members stopped car thefts and helped find missing and abducted children. The uniforms they wear are used as a high reconizability tool. It is sad that Aaron choses to attack a group of concerned citizens who not only work as a visual deterence to crime but work to make their commuities safer by reporting crimes to the police, removing dirty needles from the streets where our children might get stuck and infected with HIV or Hepititis. Aaron does a disservice to San Francisco by attacking these individuals. It is easy to make fun of others when you are insulated inside your cushy office.

  • TheGreatFrank

    Three Guardian Angels are on trial in Davenport IA for the brutal beating of a US Army Iraq War vet. They even broke his arm in three places! One of this violent Jim Jones Cult’s member was found guilty and is to be sentenced. Get these vile rodents off the streets of S.F. and America!! Led by Jim Jones cult leader Curtis Sliwa this media shyster and degerate liar has unleashed a wave of terror on America’s streets under the guise of “patroling”. No! He’s used his violent cult to terrorize and harrass innocent citizens for publicity. Two more violent followers are to be sentenced next in the Davenport IA case. In Chicago a franchise leader is so sick and demented that he’s taped himself terrorizing and beating up elderly citizens on the CTA! This lowly coward was recently knocked out by a youth who he tried to terrorize. He has entrapped graffitti taggers to make himself look “important”. This is the kind of lunacy that the GA is involved with! The GA is a cash cow for Sliwa. His stooges beg on the streets for money while he lives in a million and a half dollar condo in Manhattan! There will be more on this media shyster and degenerate liar. For now, go to http://www.therightperspective.org to find out all the facts on this violent cult. They’ve been kicked out of Philadelphia Pa and now more cities are to follow with these violent members sentence to prison. Wow! are they going to have “fun” when the gang members get ahold of them!!!

  • blake

    “There’s a perception, partially due to their dress code, that the group is comprised of nothing but full-on, grade-A nutbags, but eye-catching attire is essential for a group whose function is 90% optics.”

    Is this really journalism or hate speech? If you said this about Muslims or gays, or even hipsters or blacks, would you call this fair? You’re judging people on their attire? That’s your intelligent argument about the state of their mind? So everyone in a turban is a terrorist? Everyone wearing hip hop is a gangster? Everyone wearing Prada is cool? Really? How superficial and biased and blatantly mean spirited is this? Aaron are you writing for a junior high school newspaper? Are you in junior high school? That article probably wouldn’t even cut a junior high paper as being too biased and sloppy. Who’s perception Aaron? Who’s your source? You got a deep throat there? Can’t tell us? Is it you? Poor journalists do that all the time. I think this guy sucks, but I can’t say that, oh I know what, I’ll just say, there’s the perception this guy is a d bag. Is there a perception that Aaron Sankin is a d bag with a chip on his shoulder? Hmmmm.

    Plus, if you think making arrests every night is the point of security and deterrence, you might as well fire all the security guards in America even though they outnumber police. The point of security guards is to deter by their presence and willingness to call the police and act if they witness a crime. You’re honestly arguing that people standing on a street corner watching out for crime and willing to call 911 and stop a crime in action has NO effect on crime??? Yeah, whatever. I’d rather have people watching my street than not.

  • blake

    Oh and as for the “Great Frank” up there, he’s a right-wing radio host who also has a chip on his shoulder against Curtis Sliwa and trashes the Angels all over the place. Go to this website to learn more about this right-wing extremist:

    http://www.therightperspective.org/about-2/

    Also, many Angels are minorities living in communities that don’t have private security guards, gates, and high tax bases to pay for sufficient police. It’s so nice when minorities like to trash other minorities bc they’re too poor to live in better neighborhoods and are trying to help themselves.

  • tranimal00

    @blake: “Is this really journalism or hate speech?”

    although, i must admit, that if Mr. Sankin wants to be taken more seriously as a journalist he should probably avoid the liberal use of the word “nut-bag”… however this is not “hate-speech”.

    “There’s a perception, partially due to their dress code, that the group is comprised of nothing but full-on, grade-A nutbags, but eye-catching attire is essential for a group whose function is 90% optics.”

    all he is saying in this sentence is that a majority of people think the GAs are crazy or weird BECAUSE of how they dress, but that they need to dress differently or “oddly” because a huge part of their job is being seen. although it may not be the nicest/best way of saying it, he’s actually saying “these guys are often judged negatively by how they look, but looking different is part of their job.” Sure, he isn’t saying GAs are the best people ever, or are heroes or something… but he isn’t saying the group is useless or horrible either.

    and i notice that you guys that seem to love the GAs, and complain about the media being rough on them… you guys are the first ones to call people “pussies” and “d-bags” for being critical of the organization (and any group that is touting itself as a security force SHOULD be placed under public scrutiny). why the hell would i want to be “protected” by a group of people that respond to criticism with name-calling, or worse? It’s YOUR responsibility to be professionals. People bad-mouth cops every day, and they have to let it slide (or ignore it, theres an idea!) because they’re representing a bigger group and they want to be taken seriously. Perhaps the GAs should learn to do the same. Do professional patrols to make the city a better place, not for positive press and recognition (which is what many of the more vocal representatives seem to want)… then maybe they’ll actually get that recognition and respect.

  • blake

    Here’s the problem I have. I attacked Sankin. I didn’t attack the San Francisco Appeal or journalism in general. I attacked Sankin bc I felt he was being mean spirited and unprofessional, masking personal opinion and whatever personal issues he has with authority or whatever for journalism. When journalists attack the Angels, they attack all Angels, and then they seem to go after citizen crime activism in general. There are few arguments like, how much training do they have, what is their accountability system, do they have standards, etc. It’s always, hey they look like clowns, they seem to be nutbags, they look fascist, they’re idiots, they’re cop wannabe’s, etc. Then you say, if a few Angels or Angel supporters use insults in return, you can’t support the Angels in general??? That’s like saying, if a few journalist act unprofessional, well then, I’m never taking journalism seriously. It’s pure hypocrisy. That’s like people saying, hey, I can’t take environmentalists seriously, bc they dress weird, wear rasta clothing like clowns, and a few are really ornery and some are ecoterrorists. Seriously? Are we becoming the fashion police for non-profits? The girl scouts look silly, those Red Cross vests OMG so ugly, like get a clue, get a fashion consultant Angels, you look sooooo uncool. And you say you don’t want someone looking out for you if they are so prone to hurling insults. You ever been around Marines? Hey now, those Marines can’t protect MY nation, they’re sooooo uncouth and foul mouthed. Angels deal with some of the worst people on the streets and they may be a little rough around the edges but many live in ghettos and grow up with parents who trash talk each other. It’s reality. And if I’m being mugged or attacked, so long as they call 911 and try to scare my attackers off, they can have manners like Howard Stern or Rosie O’Donnell, I really don’t care!

  • Ms Pearl

    I provide housing for displaced artists and others. Im in 2 docs about this kamp katrina a award winning film and kamp katrina speaks.
    Im also a street performer. I have contact with the homeless often.
    The gurdian angels are abuseing homless people who can not turn them in because of fear . Many have warents for sleeping in public or other petty crimes, I have heard countless accounts of abuse by the so called angels.
    They are so bold the abused a kid in front of Cidney’s a atore on Decatur St in the French Quarter. Employies told me this.
    The police cant act unless there is a complaint.There is a answer .
    The F B I will investigate if they are contacted by the public. I know this from personal experence .
    They ride with the police who have no idea what the angels are doing.Our officers have been dealing with the homless with kindness according to the many homless people I see. Its heartbreaking and scary to see them rideing with our officers. handcuffs on their butts arrogant and cruel.In a article one angel says anyone can be a police officer.Bull
    My son was a police officer and he went thru much training. The gurdian angels application had a place for your probation officers contact information. Anyone can and does become a gurdian angel.Im 63 and I remember when they started they were good not now. Like many good orginations they have been infilterated by somevery trobled people.
    The gurdian angels have been indited in several citys allways for abuseing the homless.
    Only 10 per cent of the public votes I fear nothing will be done.please contace us if you have ideas or comments

  • Ms Pearl

    I provide housing for displaced artists and others. Im in 2 docs about this kamp katrina a award winning film and kamp katrina speaks.
    Im also a street performer. I have contact with the homeless often.
    The gurdian angels are abuseing homless people who can not turn them in because of fear . Many have warents for sleeping in public or other petty crimes, I have heard countless accounts of abuse by the so called angels.
    They are so bold the abused a kid in front of Cidney’s a atore on Decatur St in the French Quarter. Employies told me this.
    The police cant act unless there is a complaint.There is a answer .
    The F B I will investigate if they are contacted by the public. I know this from personal experence .
    They ride with the police who have no idea what the angels are doing.Our officers have been dealing with the homless with kindness according to the many homless people I see. Its heartbreaking and scary to see them rideing with our officers. handcuffs on their butts arrogant and cruel.In a article one angel says anyone can be a police officer.Bull
    My son was a police officer and he went thru much training. The gurdian angels application had a place for your probation officers contact information. Anyone can and does become a gurdian angel.Im 63 and I remember when they started they were good not now. Like many good orginations they have been infilterated by somevery trobled people.
    The gurdian angels have been indited in several citys allways for abuseing the homless.
    Only 10 per cent of the public votes I fear nothing will be done.please contace us if you have ideas or comments