By jeanne starmack
new castle, pa.
An Alliance of Guardian Angels chapter that is getting established in New Castle plans to be a presence “throughout the city,” its president says.
Clint Brown, 38, says the new chapter of Angels, which is a block-watch patrol corps, became official in August and has seven members.
It plans to patrol in the city, mostly on weekend nights. Members will wear their signature red berets and red jackets, Brown said.
The New Castle chapter will pair up with the Cleveland chapter to patrol in Youngstown and train recruits for an eventual chapter there, the 32-year-old organization’s national leader, Curtis Sliwa, has told The Vindicator. Sliwa was in town last weekend after the Feb. 6 shooting death of Youngstown State University student Jamail Johnson at a party near the campus.
The Angels hope to deter crime or at least be helpful witnesses, Brown said.
“We are not the police,” he said. “In more serious crimes like shootings, we’d get descriptions, license plates and be eyewitnesses. We do not carry weapons.”
Brown said the Angels see themselves as a force that can deal with street crimes such as fights, freeing up the police for more important calls.
He said he and his fellow Angels have been through training that included a verbal-combatant course on diffusing tense situations and training in state laws on issues such as citizen arrests.
He said that in Youngstown, New Castle members would rely on the Cleveland chapter for guidance on Ohio laws.
Members are vetted for criminal backgrounds, he said, and they are checked for weapons before patrols.
So far, he said, patrols have been quiet in New Castle.
“Everything’s been uneventful,” he said. The members haven’t been patrolling much this winter, he said, because of the weather and because of personal circumstances.
New Castle Police Chief Tom Sansone was not aware there is an Angels chapter in the city.
“They’ve never introduced themselves,” he said.
He said he has no problem at all with the patrols.
“The more eyes, the merrier,” he said. “If they’re proactive and not vigilantes.”
Sansone said the Angels should be careful “they don’t get themselves hurt.”
“And you have to watch, because if they do start making a difference, these thugs might start targeting them,” he said. “But generally speaking, I’m not against them coming in and helping out.”
Brown said the Angels have protocols for shootings. “We try to stay behind, stay down — we try to make sure we’re out of the line of fire,” he said.
He said the organization generally has a policy that members don’t go into high-crime areas.
“We take care of ourselves first,” he said, adding that members evaluate each situation to decide if it’s safe to intervene.
Brown said that Sansone and the city’s mayor were invited to the Angels’ training graduation ceremony in August but did not come.
He said he would make another effort to meet them.