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What is the Alliance of Guardian Angels?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Alliance of Guardian Angels is an international public safety organization which promotes citizen involvement in public safety issues in major cities all over the world. The organization leads workshops and trainings in vulnerable communities, and members lead street patrols which are designed to reduce the level of criminal activity. In some regions, the Guardian Angels have been viewed as controversial, with civic leaders opposing the establishment of Guardian Angels chapters in their areas. Other civic leaders have endorsed the organization's presence.

Curtis Sliwa founded the organization in 1979 in New York City during a marked increase in crime. Members of the Alliance of Guardian Angels started out by sending out pairs of Guardian Angels to walk “beats” throughout the city, making the presence of the organization known on the streets and in the subways. The Guardian Angels initially promoted citizen's arrests, and now more generally focuses on increasing public safety by making community volunteers highly visible to deter criminals.

Before Guardian Angels can walk a beat, they receive training in dealing with law enforcement, deescalating situations, communicating, working in diverse communities, and self defense. The organization prides itself on being highly inclusive: anyone over the age of 16 may join the Guardian Angels, and the group promotes diversity. While on patrol, Guardian Angels wear distinctive red berets and white shirts or red jackets which feature the logo of the organization. Volunteers always work in pairs for safety reasons.

In addition to offering community-based initiatives, the Alliance of Guardian Angels also has a CyberAngels division, which deals with cyberbullying and other illegal online activities. The group leads workshops in schools and communities to address online safety issues, and it works actively with similar organizations to offer cyberbullying coursework and related materials to teachers. CyberAngels dates to 1995, reflecting the organization's early interest in protecting Internet users, especially children.

Sometimes, the presence of these unarmed safety patrollers is all it takes for the crime rate in a community to go down. The Guardian Angels have also dispatched themselves to specific communities in need, responding to violence or public safety issues when they flare up. The Alliance of Guardian Angels is one among many public safety organizations which promote the idea that members of the public can and should be involved in safety initiatives, and that the best way to ensure safety is with the use of large numbers of volunteers and a no-tolerance policy for crime.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a America Explained researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By bluespirit — On Oct 23, 2011

I think that the Alliance of Guardian Angels is a great and unique organization, because it really benefits everyone. This volunteer organization seems to be one that lets anyone be a part of helping out. This organization also helps out everyone in danger, not just a specific group of people.

The Alliance of Guardian Angels benefits the neighborhood by making it more safe and secure. It also benefits the people apt to do a crime because it shows them there are positive ways to spend their time and there are positive people who care for them.

The Alliance of Guardian Angels also benefits the volunteers. It gives the volunteers an opportunity to learn basic safety skills and life skills that others would not normally learn.

One safety skill the organization teaches is how to physically and mentally protect oneself. Another safety skill they learn is how to protect themselves and others without using any weapons.

A life lesson the Alliance of Guardian Angels get to know is how to deal with law enforcement, which is something most of us do not, but should, know. How to quickly diffuse a negative situation and turn it positive is another life lesson.

By Saraq90 — On Oct 23, 2011

The Alliance of Guardian Angels sounds like a fantastic volunteer organization. I have not heard of or seen this organization before, but maybe that is because I have only lived in relatively small cities.

I am glad the article says that the Guardian angels go in groups, instead of alone, because this seems like in some neighborhoods it could be quite dangerous.

I think we all should be honorary members of this organization. We should all look out for one another and keep all our senses open to possible danger. Instead of spending hours at night watching television with your family, why not interact with your family and even your neighbors?

You never know what is going on behind closed doors or closed blinds. Sometimes there is bad behavior happening right next to us, we are just too busy in our own world to see or hear anything.

I am not saying invade people's privacy, just try to get to know one another and help one another. Definitely at least report a crime to law enforcers if you see/hear a crime take place.

By lovealot — On Oct 22, 2011

Cyber harassing and bullying is getting to be a huge problem, I'm so glad to hear that there is an organization dedicated to preventing online crimes.

This article reports that the CyberAngels have been doing a lot to educate children, parents, and teachers about bullying on the Internet.

So many parents and teachers are at such a loss to know what to do about bullying and cyberbullying.

And kids are vulnerable to being drawn in to illicit activity by way of the internet, which is truly dangerous. I'm so glad the CyberAngel group was formed.

By sweetPeas — On Oct 21, 2011

The idea of having The Alliance of Guardian Angels volunteering their time and putting themselves in possible danger is a great idea. I've heard of them and know what they do, but I think they need to be honored and given more press for what they do.

People need more awareness about the goals of the Guardian Angels, and how they work.I don't know if they should be able to make arrests. I would like them to concentrate on petty crimes and children and teen crimes. They could be helpful in handling these minor crimes. Just walking the streets should discourage crime.

By SZapper — On Oct 20, 2011

@ceilingcat - I see what you're saying. But as the article said, they've stepped away from doing citizen's arrests as much as before.

I think this organization is cool because it focuses on crime prevention. And they focus on crime prevention through visibility, not through other dubious methods.

I always get really upset when I hear that "blame the victim" mentality in crime prevention. That the victims should prevent crimes by not walking there, not wearing that, or not being out so late. I think it's cool this organization is trying to prevent crime by making it harder for criminals to commit crimes, not by telling citizens to stay in there houses with their blinds drawn.

By ceilingcat — On Oct 20, 2011

This Alliance of Guardian Angels sounds good -- in theory. I'm glad they've stepped away from doing citizen's arrests though.

I think it would be too easy for someone who volunteered with this organization to get drunk on power (like a lot of police officers). Imagine if one of your neighbors was in an organization like this, and they decided they didn't like you? How easy would it be for them to say they saw you doing something bad and perform a citizens arrest?

Also, these people aren't trained in law enforcement-just in dealing with law enforcement officers! I think it would be too easy for them to discriminate or perform a citizens arrest on the wrong person.

By manykitties2 — On Oct 20, 2011

I really think that the government should do more to support organizations like the Guardian Angels. I know our police force has always got their hands full so why not let a citizen group arrest those that are doing petty crimes?

I think if the police had a serious training program for volunteers they could make a huge difference. Do you really need to call the cops if you catch a kid spray painting your car? Or if you see someone harassing someone?

I think the law really needs to let everyday people help out more. After all, it is their homes they're protecting.

By popcorn — On Oct 19, 2011

Our neighborhood could really use something like the Alliance of Guardian Angels around to keep things some of the kids around here in line. I find that the more individuals in a community stick to themselves the worse things get.

I guess it is just easier for kids to vandalize other people's property when they don't have any connection to the people living there. Heck, we don't even have a neighborhood watch organization to keep an eye on things. I may have to see if there is anyway to bring this organization to where I live. We really need some help.

By SteamLouis — On Oct 19, 2011

I just read in a news article that more than 50% of children are now victims of cyber-bullying and harassment!

This is very scary because it feels like, as parents, that there is less we could do to protect our children from this threat. All kids today have access to internet and cell phones. And the bad part is that most of this harassment generally comes from other kids that our children already know personally.

I try and monitor what my kids do online, which friends they chat with and message, but it's not easy to do! I'm really happy to hear that Guardian Angels also has a program in place about internet safety. I found their Cyber Safety Guide online and I plan on reading through it with my kids so that they are aware of the dangers.

By discographer — On Oct 18, 2011

@fify-- I agree with you. The best part about this program is that it aims to resolve issues in a peaceful manner. I think this is a huge benefit for the young criminals you mentioned. Because if a young criminal comes into contact with a Guardian Angel rather than a police officer, not only will he or she escape punishment and forever being labeled as a criminal, but it could really be a turning point for that individual.

In fact, I think that Guardian Angels could even get such young kids who have the tendency to engage in criminal activities to become volunteers for the program. Not only would this give them a purpose and self-esteem, but they could be great role models for other kids their age and in their situation.

Does the Alliance of Guardian Angels currently have such activities?

By fify — On Oct 18, 2011

I really like the idea of having the community involved in protecting neighborhoods. Especially in big cities, I don't think it's right to expect everything from law enforcement, as they just cannot be everywhere all the time. But the people who live in a neighborhood are always there and aware of what's going on, so this is a great way to deter criminals, who may just be the youngsters in the neighborhood who have nothing else to do.

For instance, look at the 2011 riots in London and elsewhere in England. The rioters were basically youngsters but they did a lot of bad things like stealing, vandalizing and burning shops. There was not enough law enforcement to stop and protect shops and citizens from the riots. It was shop owners that ultimately ended up protecting their neighborhoods. They were able to do what the law enforcement couldn't.

So the Alliance of Guardian Angels is a fantastic idea. I don't think it is as widely known as it should be. But as more and more people volunteer and become members, I think it will be well known soon in most countries and communities.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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