By William K. ALCORN
The Alliance of Guardian Angels plans to begin patrolling streets in Youngstown and Warren by next weekend.
In addition, a new Youngstown/Warren Guardian Angels chapter will have its “boots on the ground” in three to four months, said Curtis Sliwa, founder of the public-safety organization that put its first patrol on the streets of the Bronx, N.Y., 32 years ago Sunday, .
Sliwa was in Youngstown this weekend one week after Jamail E. Johnson, 25, was shot to death and 11 others were wounded at an off-campus party near Youngstown State University. A Celebration of Life ceremony for Johnson, a YSU student, took place Saturday in the university’s Beeghly Center. Sliwa and members of the Guardian Angels on Sunday patrolled the area near the shootings.
The next steps to activating a chapter here are establishing a working relationship with Youngstown and Warren law enforcement organizations and recruiting for the new Youngstown/Warren chapter.
In the meantime, Sliwa said members of New Castle, Pa., and Cleveland chapters will patrol on weekends in their signature red jackets and berets and begin the three-month training of recruits.
Sliwa said the Guardian Angels are unarmed, but they differ from block watches in that they will do intervention.
“We don’t have any special powers or privileges, but we do make citizen’s arrests,” he said.
He said the extensive training, which includes role-planing for specific situations such as a fight outside a bar, enables Guardian Angel members to handle situations. They also learn CPR and first aid. “For every criminal situation, we come across 10 medical situations,” Sliwa said.
He said the Guardian Angels decided to come to the Youngstown/Warren area because a local man has been in touch with the organization for some time about crime problems here; and after last week’s shootings, the group received a number of e-mails asking for help.
He said establishing a chapter is a three-step process.
Reach out to the law enforcement and government leadership in Youngstown and Warren to establish a working relationship. “We believe that because of cutbacks in public safety budgets, many departments will be willing to work with us.”
Recruit and train members self-defense and conditioning and the legalities of what citizens are permitted to do.
Train recruits in CPR and first aid.
He said people interested in joining the Guardian Angels should visit its web site at guardianangels.com.
He said potential recruits are vetted, but “we’ll take chances with some people” whose background is less than perfect.
While Youngstown is not New York City or Chicago or Cleveland, it does have intense gun-related violent crime.
“Clearly, the Guardian Angels presence will deter it and also help overcome the subculture of ‘snitches get stitches and end up in ditches,’” he said.
A lot of people who don’t want to be seen with cops and investigators and putting themselves in danger. They are paralyzed with fear, which means the criminals can commit crimes again and again.
“We tell them in the streets, give us the information and we’ll get it to the right people,” Sliwa said.