Following an announcement last week that the Tenderloin plans to step up a neighborhood program of citizen patrols, the Guardian Angels -- a national outfit that sends its members into the streets to deter crime -- is now trying to establish a beachhead in the neighborhood, according to local activist David Villa-Lobos.
Villa-Lobos said in an interview that his Community Leadership Alliance (CLA) group has been contacted by officials from the Nevada office of the Guardian Angels, who asked if the San Francisco chapter of the organization could "join forces" with the CLA to patrol the streets in the Tenderloin. The 50 square blocks that comprise the central city neighborhood have long been plagued by drug dealing, drug use and violent crime.
Villa-Lobos said the Tenderloin's previous experience with the Guardian Angels, who patrolled the streets in 1989 following the Loma Prieta earthquake, was positive, and that the group members' presence seemed to scare off criminals. "Actually, things were never better," he said.
Tenderloin activists are hoping to model the neighborhood's "Community on Patrol" program on a similar program in the Castro. The Guardian Angels, the most high-profile organizer of citizen patrols in the U.S., is also subject to some controversy. Many police officers describe them as vigilantes.Villa-Lobos added that community sentiment on the Angels' potential presence would have to be gauged at an upcoming meeting on citizen patrols, to be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, in the Hamilton Community Room at 631 O'Farrell Street. "We want to make sure that we're not doing something that's really going to upset the community," he said.