By: Grant Vance ~Managing Editor~
Civilian safety is a responsibility that is held tightly by the arms of the law, assigned to the police force to survey and protect. Occasionally, crime seeps through the cracks of institutional justice, prompting outsiders to take it upon themselves to keep a community safe.
Enter the Guardian Angels, New York City’s premiere independent vigilante group. Originally established in 1978 during the nadir of crime and corruption in the Big Apple, the Guardian Angels are slowly resurging as a result of recent pockets of crime throughout the city.
Their first reappearance was back in August 2015 after several attacks on gay men in Central Park that allegedly were neglected by officers. This was the first time the group has made an official appearance since 1994, when Mayor Edward Koch labeled them vigilantes, tarnishing their image in the public eye.
The Guardian Angels were relatively quiet since their comeback in August, but they have found their way back into headlines in recent weeks.
Due to eight recent instances of subway slashings throughout the Bronx and Brooklyn, the Guardian Angels are back in action, which has been met with mixed reception from law enforcement officials and citizens alike.
“I don’t think the police commissioner — who’s had a good relationship with us in the past — or (New York City Mayor) de Blasio are pleased with this,” group leader Curtis Sliwa reportedly said. “They’re big on saying the city is the safest it’s ever been since Peter Stuyvesant was here, since the Dutch colonized New York. But that’s not the case in the subways.”
Commissioner William Bratton and de Blasio’s confidence in low crime rates is layered with implications that the Guardian Angel’s return is insignificant.
“(Their return is) nothing new,” Bratton said on 970 The Answer. “There’s about 10 of them left, I guess, in the organization. So, I don’t see it as a big, sensational story. They’ve been doing it off and on over the years. Their role is to see something, say something. They’re not expected to engage in anything — they don’t have any powers.”
Despite the group’s dismissive opinions of institutional justice, select New York City citizens believe some good can come from the Guardian Angel’s return.
“If it stops the slashing then I’m all for it,” Manhattan resident Max Neace said. “Just about all of them only happen way up in the Bronx, so there isn’t much of a worry in downtown Manhattan. Still, if they can somehow stop the slashing from happening good for them and New York.”
For better or worse, the Guardian Angel’s Batman-like means of justice will continue until they trust the city is safe.