'Guardian Angels' helping police in Mission District

March 6, 2011 1:47:59 PM PST
Escalating gang violence in San Francisco's Mission District over the past two weekends has police stepping up patrols.

Now, officers are also getting some civilian help from the "Guardian Angels" and the locals are giving mixed reviews. The Guardian Angels are now on patrol in the Mission. Police say a gang shooting last Saturday on Mission and 17th Street led to a rival gang's trashing of the victim's memorial. That produced another shooting on 24th Street where a man was wounded by one of more than a dozen shots according to police.

Enter the Guardian Angels.

"You know, we're having a little situation of gang wars, so we're here, hopefully, to make a presence," Joe Salcedo told ABC7.

Guardian Angels can be seeb patrolling Mission Street from 16th to 24th Streets. They believe they can deter violence with their mere presence.

"If we have probable cause, we can place a citizen's arrest," Salcedo explained.

The beret-wearing white t-shirted patrols do give some comfort to people who frequent the district.

"It's nice, yes, to have some support in the streets. So, I think they would keep safe the neighborhood a little bit," said Emilio Autin of Concord, admitting the Angels make her feel a little safer.

However, to Mission District resident Chris York, the presence of the Angels is all smoke.

"It's like security theatre to me, where it's like at the airport. They try to make you feel safer even though they're not doing things that actually prevent crime from taking place," Chris York said. "It's made to make you feel more at rest."

Guardian Angels have often patrolled the streets of the Mission in the past. Alberto Caleb, who works in a fruit market, says the Angels make the situation worse not better.

"They don't make a difference because Angels only walking around and call the police, and makes more angry to the gang members," he said.

Caleb says gang members only fight each other. He claims they actually protect the neighborhood.

"Gang members never bother anybody or people in neighborhood here. They take care of everybody around here," he added.

It is not a claim likely to be supported by the police. They say gang activity is on the rise and whatever help they can get from groups like the Guardian Angels is welcome.

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