Guardian Angels watching London
By Chris Smeenk
London philanthropes with time on their hands have been trying
to make a difference in the community through the Guardian
Angels Safety Patrol.
The Alliance of Guardian Angels is a network of civilians
interested in safety and crime prevention, said Arnold Salinas,
senior director of the Guardian Angels.
“We started off 25 years ago in New York [City], as
a bunch of kids out there to protect those who couldn’t
protect themselves,” he said.
“At first it was really hard,” Salinas noted. “To
be honest, I don’t know how I did it. If the criminal
wasn’t beating me up, then the cop was beating me up.”
Salinas speculated that police officers felt threatened by
the Guardian Angels when the organization began. Over time,
he noted, the Guardian Angels have become well respected and
established. He said numerous Guardian Angel alumni have gone
on to pursue law enforcement careers in policing, and even
the FBI and CIA in the United States.
“Actually, they’re not that active in London,” said
Const. Paul Martin, spokesperson for the London Police Service.
Martin downplayed the influence of the Guardian Angels, saying
there has not been a marked decrease in crime since the group
began patrolling local streets.
“It’s great if they act as a deterrent to crime,
but they basically have the same power as any other citizen,” he
said. “The way we look at it is that any individual out
there is an extra pair of eyes,” he added, confirming
that the Guardian Angels are now a recognized presence in London.
Salinas admitted that his Guardian Angels are limited in their
power. “We cannot enforce the law, but if something happens
in front of us we can make a citizen’s arrest,” he
Peter Barton, a Western law professor, noted citizens’ powers
of arrest are more limited. “They can arrest if they
are witness to a criminal act occurring,” he said. The
Guardian Angels are not governed by the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms, he added, because they do not act as agents of the