HARTFORD — - Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels anti-crime patrols, will be in Hartford on Sunday with a dozen Guardian Angels from New York and New Haven to gauge interest in starting an Angels chapter here.
Sliwa said his organization has been contacted by people from Hartford as a result of shootings in the North End. Sliwa and the Angels will be wearing their trademark red berets as they walk the streets near Albany Avenue and Garden Street.
"I'll be leading them into the neighborhood to actually check the areas that have been pointed out to us," Sliwa said. The goal will be to meet people, talk to them about the Guardian Angels and see "if there's interest among local people in getting involved. That's really the key."
If there is, Sliwa said, he'll then contact Hartford police and officials at city hall.
Hartford Assistant Police Chief Neil Dryfe said the department would welcome a community-based effort to help police fight crime.
"If there are people from the city of Hartford who would like to join that type of grass-roots effort, and it takes the form of a Guardian Angels chapter, then by all means we would be supportive under the proper context," Dryfe said. Police don't want vigilantism.
"We're interested in members of this community taking an active role in protecting the community," Dryfe said.
Sliwa said the Angels are not vigilantes but will make citizen arrests if they witness a crime. Angels also receive training in first aid.
"We're a visual deterrent to crime," Sliwa said. "We're wearing red berets, red jackets and we're an active foot patrol in the streets."
Guardian Angels also build links with the community and serve as a conduit for information that helps police solve crimes. People who might be reluctant to talk to police, or who fear being labeled snitches, will talk to Guardian Angels, who then pass the information to police.
"We live to rat out criminals," Sliwa said.
Hartford has recorded 18 homicides so far this year, three more than for the same period last year. Aggravated assaults are up 7 percent, to 464 so far this year compared with 434 for the same period last year. Department statistics show overall crime, including rapes and robberies, is down 10.4 percent.
The Guardian Angels tried to start a chapter in Hartford in the mid-1980s, but the effort failed.
To get a Hartford chapter going, 18 to 24 volunteers will be needed. The training program takes three weeks. If there's interest, Sliwa hopes that 12 to 16 people will complete training for the nucleus of a new chapter.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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