Next, the Guardian Angels are set to commence patrols this month in Riverhead, Sliwa said; in December, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said he’d welcome the Guardian Angels to Riverhead with an eye toward combating gang activity and keeping the Latino community safe from “thugs”.
“Our successful launch of the Guardian Angels in the immigrant community of Greenport has paved the way for the start of our effort in Riverhead. Our first patrol will go out the last week of January. The town supervisor has requested that we focus on the immigrant community of Riverhead where a number of crime problems have taken place of late. We will be seeking recruits from that community to patrol Riverhead as Guardian Angels,” Sliwa said.
Sliwa has said that having Guardian Angels from the immigrant community who speak Spanish is critical, to reach out to the burgeoning Latino community most vulnerable to gangs preying on their youth. It happens most often in local school districts — with some children recruited into MS-13 and 18th Street gangs as young as six years old. Forming bonds of trust within the Latino community, the Guardian Angels in Greenport are able to bridge gaps and communicate with those who’ve long felt disenfranchised and want to keep their streets safe from gangs, he said.
“It’s important to realize that this is a community that wants to help themselves,” Sliwa said.
During an earlier patrol in December, new recruits spoke to SoutholdLOCAL about what had compelled them to don the red jackets and berets that are the hallmark of the Guardian Angels — and to hit the streets.
“I have kids, a 14 year old and an 18-month old,” said Oscar Cruz of Greenport. “Every generation, they’re waiting for help from the outside, or waiting for cops to do the job. I want to make a difference. If we can do something about leaving our streets safe for our children, for the future, even if we catch one bad guy, it will make a difference.”
He added, “It’s better to start today to make a change, rather than waiting for the next generation.”
Oscar Sanchez said he has long been motivated to get involved after Eber Lopez, 15, of Greenport was shot by alleged gang members in 2009. The teen, who went missing after a christening, was found in Farmingville.
Sanchez he knew the boy, and since his death, always felt the need to do something to stem the tide of gang activity in his own community. “He was at a party with gang members. And then he was shot,” he said.
“I like helping the community,” added Minor Barcarsel of Greenport.
Gabriel Gonzales said he joined the effort “to clean up the community and get rid of the gangs. We want to protect all the children.”
One woman, who declined to be named out of fear for her own safety, confirmed in December that she hoped to join the Guardian Angels; she was moved to take action after her brother was almost assaulted by a known MS-13 gang member in Greenport.
Another employee of a local business who saw the Guardian Angels gathered outside Monday night said she was happy to see them in the village. “Having them here means more security,” she said.