Back in the ’70s, there was a group of men in red berets that patrolled New York’s subways, trying to fight crime when the cops couldn’t. They called themselves the Guardian Angels. Some loved them, others didn’t. They had good intentions, but no one was sure if they were doing more good than harm.
Since they were founded by Curtis Sliwa around a subway station in the Bronx, the Angels have spread into 144 cities and 15 countries. Even though you’ll rarely see them, their website suggests that they’re still going strong, patrolling cities and looking for crime.
Recently, though, they’ve become a bit of an issue in San Francisco. With an uptick in violence in the Mission area of the city, the Guardian Angels have begun to patrol the area more vigorously.
Aaron Sankin wrote in the San Francisco Appeal:
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.
Questions over the merit of the Angels have been bouncing around the San Francisco media. Phil Bronstein, an editor at large at the San Francisco Chronicle, decided to go on patrol with the Guardian Angels, talking to the members and getting a feel for what they actually do. In summation, Bronstein wrote:
To me, the Guardian Angels are like a gang from the Temperance League: they won’t stop you from being an alcoholic but their presence might just keep you sober at the moment.
Watch Bronstein’s video above and you’ll see that these are, at their core, good guys. Really, they’re just trying to keep bad things from happening. Sure, they call themselves names like “Lion,” and probably are a little crazy, but they’re really just normal guys trying to do something good.