The Guardian Angels are back.
Curtis Sliwa – CEO of the anti-crime organization which he founded in 1979 – said the Guardian Angels haven’t patrolled Crown Heights since 1991, when a full-on riot rocked the neighborhood. But in the wake of ongoing assaults against Jews, the Guardian Angels have returned to the area and Sliwa said they will stay for at least three months with round-the-clock patrols.
This week, the Guardian Angels also started patrolling Williamsburg and Boro Park, both of which have also seen much anti-Jewish violence.
The Guardian Angels’ ultimate aim is to “engage Jews to get more involved, to be more vigilant – and not be as dependent on the mayor, governor, and the police,” Sliwa told The Jewish Press. “You can’t depend on government. You’ve got to show that you can protect your own.”
Unfortunately, Sliwa said, several existing crime prevention groups, have been “co-opted” by the NYPD. “What I mean by that,” he added, “is that the NYPD doesn’t want them to physically intervene and make citizen arrests. They tell the Shomrim, ‘You’re just eyes and ears. If you see something, say something.’ But that doesn’t work when it comes to anti-Semitic attacks. What are you gong to do? Watch a Jew get beaten?”
Sliwa said he went to Catholic elementary and high schools in Crown Heights, which is where he saw his very first citizen patrol group. “I remember in 1970, right on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Kingston, there was a patrol called the Maccabees. They were Lubavitch, and, boy, were they fearsome.
“If you came into the community looking for trouble – which a lot of gangs did at the time because they wanted to steal black hats, which was like a trophy for them – they’d run you right out of the neighborhood.”
He recalled, “They had a term they used called ‘Chapsem!’ They said it’s the duty of every man – whether you’re a baker or a butcher, whether you’re in your house or in your car – when you hear that term ‘Chapsem!’ you immediately get out into the street and help whoever is in harm’s way.”
Sliwa hopes that by spring time, the Guardian Angels “will have trained and gotten many other Jews involved in self-defense and patrolling their neighborhoods.” At that point, he said, the Angels will retreat and “act more in an advisory capacity.”