March 31, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 95  

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Guardian Angels watching London

By Chris Smeenk
Gazette Staff

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 said.

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 government.



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