Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rally for peace in Vallejo

A Peace Rally will be held on Saturday at 10 a.m., beginning at City Park and finishing at Georgia Street. The Guardian Angels will be there with chapters from San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond. There will be plenty of people covering this sad event.

Rally for peace
Article Launched: 12/18/2008 07:56:20 AM PST

A Peace Rally will be held on Saturday at 10 a.m., beginning at City Park and finishing at Georgia Street. The Guardian Angels will be there with chapters from San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond. There will be plenty of people covering this sad event.

I am letting you know about the Peace Rally because a man was murdered on the same night that we held our meeting at the Empress on Dec. 2. While we were speaking about making Vallejo a nicer place to live, one man was murdered on the corner of Georgia and Marin streets, locking up from work and preparing to go home. This is a very cowardly act upon another person who is trying to make something of himself and his home. Vallejoans want to see these acts of violence stop in this beautiful town.

So please if you can, be there to support this rally and show everyone that this will no longer be tolerated in our neighborhood or in Vallejo. It's time that we all stand up and take this city back from the thugs that threaten our children and their futures here.

Join me and many others who want to see a positive change and stop the ripple effect of violence that effects all of us here in Vallejo.

Marian Swanson

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Blog going on hiatus

The San Francisco Guardian Angels blog is taking a break Check back later after for more updates Read the rest

Sunday, November 16, 2008

11/15/08 Quinceañera

The SF Guardian Angels provided security for a Quinceaños celebration yesterday. Read the rest

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Patrol in the Mission, 10/18/08

The weather was nice today and the Mission was packed with people because of the Red Bull Soapbox Race, but everything went OK.

We started our usual patrol by clearing Hunter's alley and securing several used needles. We collected 15 used needles today.

After that, we cleared Kid Power Park and headed to Dolores Park to briefly check out the scene of the soapbox race before moving on down Mission.
(Kid Power Park)

(Mission Dolores Park)

We walked down Mission and then up to Alioto Park where we came across several people drinking and sleeping in the park. We either woke them up or made them take their drinking elsewhere so families could enjoy the park, and then we headed back down Mission to the 25th St. BART station.

We posted up for a while at the station as there were several individuals who appeared to be under the influence and were arguing, but they eventually calmed down and left. We cleared Travis Alley before heading back up Mission to check on Alioto Park and Hunter's Alley again.
(Travis Alley)

When we came back through Hunter's Alley, we came across some tourists from Fremont who thought the alley was a good place to get out of the sun, but we advised them of the nature of this particular alley, and they decided it was a good idea to find somewhere else to hang out.

After riding the bus back and getting ready to call it a day, a woman came up to us on Market St. as someone had just stolen her purse and took off running. Her cell phone and wallet were in the purse, but someone a block away had come across the cell phone. We helped her locate it, but her wallet was long gone. Unfortunately, we were about a minute too late to have possibly prevented the crime.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Attacks by Teen Groups Rising in D.C. and Nation

While this article is mostly about NW Washington, DC, San Francisco neighborhoods have also been dealing with an increase in robberies and muggings.

Attacks by Teen Groups Rising in D.C. and Nation

By Theola Labbé-DeBose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 13, 2008; B01

D.C. police say they are seeing a growing number of teenagers and young adults traveling in groups to assault and rob unsuspecting citizens, a trend that mirrors crimes in cities across the country.

In an eight-hour period last week, five people were attacked by juveniles in separate incidents, including an armed carjacking, in the Southwest waterfront neighborhood. And in the past month, there have been between seven and 11 "pack robberies" in or near Adams Morgan in Northwest Washington, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said.

Similar attacks have occurred in the Brookland area of Northeast and Chinatown. Police said the crimes are not necessarily related but are part of an increase that has led to heightened enforcement.

"They're looking for someone who has a cellphone or someone using an iPod. Or they're just looking for some fast cash or a credit card," Lanier said Friday at a news conference in Adams Morgan, where she announced that there will be more patrols there. "You'll have a lone person walking, and there are five young males or more, and it's ridiculous. There's no need to beat people in those circumstances, but that's what they do. Just senseless."

The attacks in Southwest unfolded between 5 p.m. Monday and 1 a.m. Tuesday. The trouble began when five teenagers on bicycles attacked a man from behind, pushed him to the ground, hit him in the face and stomach, and fled. Police said they think that the attackers were between 16 and 18 years old.

A 52-year-old lawyer suffered serious head trauma after four to six teenagers beat him in the 1000 block of Sixth Street SW about 9 p.m. Monday. Later Monday, also in Southwest, two teenagers stuck a gun in a man's face, slapped him and demanded his belongings, police said. After the victim said he didn't have anything, the teenagers fled, police said.

In another incident, a man was hit in the head from behind with a brick. And three youths confronted a Southwest resident early Tuesday in the 200 block of I Street SW, surprising him after he parked his car at an apartment building. After forcing a gun to his head, the youths stole $20 and his car and led a U.S. Capitol Police official on a chase until they crashed the car, authorities said. Canine units eventually forced Raymond Sturgis, 17, of the 200 block of K Street SW out of hiding, and he has been charged as an adult.

Irv Gamza, 83, who has lived in Southwest for more than four decades, said crimes committed by teenagers have become more serious in the past several years. "First they just annoy or harass people. Then they start getting physical. And then they rob," Gamza said.

Gamza, who is a member of the police Citizens' Advisory Council, said that if anyone in the neighborhood claims not to be afraid of groups of roaming juveniles, they "are just lying to themselves."

"You have some juveniles who are not bothering anyone. And you have some where you don't know under what condition you're going to have a problem," he said.

At a national violent-crime summit last week, sponsored by the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum, police chiefs exchanged stories about the spate of robberies and juvenile crimes, Executive Director Chuck Wexler said.

In recent years, police in the District and other cities have dealt with spikes in robberies. Although the numbers posted by cities across the country decreased in the past two years, they remain higher than in 2004, Wexler said. In the District this year, there were 3,180 robberies as of Sept. 30, roughly the same as last year. The numbers for the month of September were up, however -- 413 compared with 388 last year -- based on preliminary statistics on the police Web site.

"Robbery is the number one crime accelerating across the country in large, medium and small areas," Wexler said.

The Police Executive Research Forum, which tracks statistics in 56 cities, has pinpointed an "explosive increase" of juveniles participating in robberies, Wexler said. In Minneapolis, police and government officials created a juvenile unit just to deal with the rising crime in that area, he said.

Lanier, who attended the crime summit, was struck by the parallels between the recent attacks in the District and those in other cities.

"I talked to a lot of chiefs at a conference the other day -- there were 180 chiefs and sheriffs from around the country -- and every one was saying the same thing: that this has become a real crime trend," Lanier said.

Bryan Weaver, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Adams Morgan, said he is concerned that more robberies are occurring on neighborhood streets away from the main commercial strip along 18th Street NW.

"Right now, the major concern of residents is that people are putting guns to their faces when they're coming home from work or dinner," he said.

Staff writers Paul Duggan and Martin Weil contributed to this report.
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fleet week patrol and visibility

This was Fleet Week in San Francisco, and the San Francisco Guardian Angels were out today along the waterfront to patrol.

We patrolled along the waterfront to deter pick-pockets, purse-snatchers, and other criminals from taking advantage of the spectators during the air show. We had a total of 14 Guardian Angels out today, including several from the Vallejo chapter.

Towards the end of the day we took a break to watch the Blue Angels perform.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

SF Guardian Angels mentioned in the SF Chronicle

I recently attended a community meeting in the Glen Park neighborhood of San Francisco in regards to the recent spike in street crime, and a San Francisco Chronicle reporter wrote about the meeting online today.

Never fear! The angels are here.

Lance Iverson/The Chronicle

The Oakland chapter of the Guardian Angels patrols Grand Avenue in April.
We last wrote about the San Francisco Guardian Angels four years ago, when they flew into the Mission District (more recently, an East Bay chapter offered help to Oakland residents). Now, the volunteer patrol group is offering a helping hand to the Bernal Heights and Glen Park neighborhoods, which have been hit hard in recent months by an increase in muggings and other street crimes.

The group's assistant chapter leader recently reached out with an email, and subsequently attended a community meeting, where many people appeared receptive to the idea. Nothing's official yet, but it looks likely that the Angels will be patrolling a bit further south in not too long.

By the way -- you can read about their Mission District exploits here.

Posted By: Marisa Lagos (Email) | October 08 2008 at 01:37 PM

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Patrol in the Mission, 10/04/08

Today was Lovefest in San Francisco, so downtown and Market St. were packed, which delayed our patrol to the Mission by a bit as everyone from the Bay Area seemed to be coming to SF, but the day went smoothly and we collected a record number of used drug needles for disposal along with training a new recruit.

(It was a slow bus ride through all the traffic)

We hit Hunter's Alley first and came across several homeless people hanging out. Even though we've only taken one week off, the alley was full of used needles and the usual debris.

After Hunter's Alley we went down newly-minted "Lover's Lane Alley" as every trip down this alley seems to find us walking over used condoms, condom wrappers, along with empty bottles, crack pipes, and used needles. For whatever reason, this alley seems to be a favorite of the romantic junkies, so we decided to give it a fitting name.

Oftentimes, junkies stash needles on the other side of fences so that they can come back and retrieve them later to use, but today we brought along a spring claw to be able pick up those needles so residents don't have to worry about anyone coming by at night for the needles to shoot up on their property. The picture below is us taking a needle from behind a fence of a grateful resident who was happy to have us there removing needles from her property.

After Lover's Lane Alley we cleared Kid Power Park and then posted up at the 16th St. BART station for a few minutes before heading down Mission St.

We checked in on Alioto Park and as soon as we walked into the park a man got up and quickly walked out. He appeared to throw something away just as we walked in, so we probably interrupted him smoking a joint in a park meant for families.

After taking a break in the park, we continued down Mission to the 24th St. BART station where there was a man openly drinking beer at the station. We told him to pour it out or take it somewhere else, and he decided to take it somewhere else.

We then headed to Travis Alley but only found one needle there, which is a great sign that things continue to improve there.

After Travis Alley, we walked down 24th St. to Potrero and then looped back to check in on Mini Park, which was clean.

We headed back up Mission to check Alioto Park again and then back to Hunter's Alley for a final sweep. We went through Hunter's Alley once more, then checked Lover's Lane Alley again. As soon as we turned down the alley though, a man saw us and took off in the other direction immediately. He was probably getting ready to get high in the alley, and we spoiled his plans.

To end the day, we walked down Mission St. next to a stretch of land next to a school where people throw their empty bottles and used needles in. There are some holes in the fences and it appears that junkies climb through the holes to shoot up on the school grounds and then leave their needles there. Using the spring claw, we also retrieved a crack pipe (pictured below) from this same area along with numerous needles and empty bottles.

All told, we collected a record 35 needles for the day along with two small dope cookers and one crack pipe. We started the day with seven Guardian Angels, but one had to leave early for work, so we had a strong crew of six for the rest of the day.

Next week is Fleet Week in San Francisco, and we'll be out to help keep residents and tourists safe during the event. If you'd like to become a Guardian Angel, please send us an email at:

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Friday, October 3, 2008

SFGA history: Guardian Angels to patrol Safeway after mugging; victim eventually dies, 1995

After the attack, the San Francisco Guardian Angels stepped up to provide residents and shoppers with protective patrol services in the parking lots and surrounding areas at night.

-No guard on duty when woman beaten, robbed; Woman dies of injuries from attack at Safeway

November 22, 1995

November 23, 1995

December 6, 1995

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

SFGA history: Gang rape sparks demand for housing project patrols, 1995

Gang rape sparks demand for housing project patrols;

Carla Marinucci. San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, Calif.: Oct 8, 1995. pg. C.1

Neighbors of San Francisco's Plaza East housing project say the recent gang rape and beating of a woman was "the last straw" for the Western Addition area terrorized by crime, gangs and drug deals.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

SFGA history: Peninsula cops seek rape suspect, 1995

While this may have occurred a long time ago, San Francisco still has a major problem with rape. If you feel the San Francisco Guardian Angels can be of assistance to you or your friends to help deter or prevent sexual assaults in certain areas or if you would like us to provide security for an event, please contact us via email.

Peninsula cops seek rape suspect. Women have been assaulted walking or jogging during day;

Erin McCormick. San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, Calif.: Sep 8, 1995. pg. A.11


Cops seek "crazed' rapist after attack on Sunnyvale woman;
San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, Calif.: Sep 9, 1995. pg. A.2

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SFGA history: Beating mobilizes Guardian Angels to patrol Visitacion Valley, 1995

Beating mobilizes Guardian Angels Watchdog group to patrol neighborhood after elderly couple is viciously attacked;

Jim Herron Zamora. San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, Calif.: May 7, 1995. pg. C.1

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Monday, September 29, 2008

SFGA history: incorrect characterization of the SF Guardian Angels, 1995

This article from the San Francisco Examiner describes the laudable efforts of some San Francisco residents to patrol their community from their cars and call police upon witnessing criminal activity. However, it inaccurately references the San Francisco Guardian Angels:

“Unlike the well-known Guardian Angels...Portola Patrol ‘is nonconfrontational, it’s not a get-in-your-face kind of group,’”

For the record, we work to reduce crime and confrontations, and we do not antagonize people on the street or advocate "get-in-your-face" type of actions.

Our primary purpose is to serve as a visual deterrent to crime, and the last thing we want is a confrontation with criminals. While we train and are prepared for a confrontation, we work to resolve situations peacefully and attempt to call the police before getting involved in a risky situation ourselves.

We are not vigilantes. We simply dare to care to make our neighborhoods and cities as safe as possible as peacefully as possible

Neighbors in S.F. launch Portola area crime patrol;

Rachel Gordon. San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, Calif.: Jan 19, 1995. pg. A.1

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

SFGA History: Guardian Angels assist in hunt for hate crimes perpetrators, 1995

Gay shooting victim's life changed. For holding hands, he nearly died;

Matt Hicks. San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco, Calif.: Jan 15, 1995. pg. B.1

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Monday, September 22, 2008

San Francisco Guardian Angels to help Vallejo chapter

Vallejo is starting a Guardian Angels chapter and San Francisco will be assisting them, along with the Oakland and San Jose chapters, to get up and running. Some former San Francisco Guardian Angels who now live in Vallejo are among the new chapter.

A group of Vallejoans are interested in establishing a Vallejo chapter of the Guardian Angels, with the assistance of regional advisor Freddy H. Batres Madrid, center. Vallejoans Gilberto Gonzalez, Jimmy Marlos, Omar Martinez, Marc Garman and James Mathews Jr. are currently in training with the group. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)

Locals hope Guardian Angels will soon watch over Vallejo

Group trying to establish local chapter of volunteer safety patrol

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN/Times-Herald staff writer

Article Launched: 09/21/2008

All who join the Guardian Angels do so for slightly different reasons, though a common thread is the desire to improve their city's quality of life.
For the past few weeks, efforts have been under way to start a chapter of the unarmed, red-beret-wearing volunteer safety patrollers in Vallejo.

Gilberto Gonzalez, 46, leader of the new Vallejo chapter, said he's volunteering to make the city safer for himself and his family.

"I'd like to get back in shape and see if I can work out with them - go out into the streets. We don't have as many (police) officers as we used to have," said the former San Francisco Guardian Angel and married father of three.

"This seems like an opportunity to get back in touch with the Guardian Angels and maybe bring a chapter to Vallejo. If you like action, it's good."

Vallejo resident and business owner Omar Martinez said he's signed on to put his military training to use serving his community.

"I was a combat medic for eight years, and I was thinking, I have this training, what can I do with it?" Martinez said. "This seemed like a good idea, to help the police help make the community safer."

A Vallejo Police Department spokesman said the department backs the idea of the group opening a chapter here.

"In general, we support any community effort that contributes to the safety of the city," said Vallejo Police Capt. David Jackson. "I know there have been some problems back east with their relationship with some police departments over the years, but we don't expect those problems here."

According to, the organization was founded in New York nearly 30 years ago by Curtis Sliwa, who is still involved.

The site says Sliwa was a McDonald's night manager in a crime-ridden area of the Bronx, who became "sickened and saddened by his city's deterioration, took matters into his own hands," and formed a voluntary, weapons-free patrol of 13 to "take the subways, the streets and the neighborhood back from crime."

More than 20 chapters have sprung up worldwide since then.

In the beginning, New York City Mayor Ed Koch publicly opposed the group, as did many government officials in other cities where the group attempted to open a chapter. Koch later reversed his stance on the organization, which has since won the support of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and others, according to the Guardian Angels' Web site.

The Oakland City Council recently voted to include the Guardian Angels in its emergency preparedness plan - a first for the organization, said Cristina Fernandez, head of the Oakland chapter.

A Guardian Angels chapter wouldn't interfere with the Vallejo Police Department's cadet program in any way, and since it is a citizen-driven organization, liability issues are no different than with other citizens, Jackson said.

"We're not recruiting them or asking them to come," so if something were to happen, the city and police department would not be responsible, he said.

Guardian Angels are legally "just normal private citizens. Just ordinary citizens, just a little better trained," said Erick Wong, the group's California Regional Director. How many volunteers are needed for a patrol "depends on the area's special problems and how well trained the members are, but usually we try for six to eight," Wong said. How chapter members cooperate with police varies by chapter, he added.

"In Oakland, for instance, we're officially working with the police department," Wong said. "In other cities, they just ask us to be good eyes and ears."

In the decade Wong's been with the group, he said he's never seen anyone - Angel or detainee - injured.

"We're pretty well trained and knowledgeable about what we can and can't do," he said. "We use the minimum force necessary, if we have to get physical. But that's always a last resort. We try to prevent by our presence, to de-escalate with words. But if it's really serious, we'll intervene and make a citizen's arrest."

Jackson said a dwindling police staff makes the need for community involvement more acute than ever.

"Given the critical staffing level in the police department, we need to rely on the citizens to be our eyes and ears in the community," Jackson said. "So, joining an organization like this can be helpful. When criminals know community members are watching and will report crimes, they're less likely to engage in criminal behavior."

Martinez, 38, said the new Vallejo chapter's members have already begun training in Oakland and have met with the organization's San Diego-based regional director.

Training includes learning patrol techniques, how to function as a unit, communication skills and community outreach, Wong said. It also includes learning how to de-escalate a situation verbally, basic self defense and how to make a lawful citizen's arrest, he added.

"With the bankruptcy, some people are under the impression that Vallejo is unprotected, that there are only 20 cops here," Martinez said. "Of course, that's wrong, and we're not the police, but the police can't be everywhere at all times. So, if you're going to cry about the crime, you should do something. This is what I'm doing."

Eric Fisher, of Vallejo, leader of the Vallejo Intertribal Council, also said he'd like to help bring a chapter here.

"There's a lot of youth in town that need guidance," Fisher said. "I think a local Guardian Angels chapter would help the citizens of Vallejo feel safe to go out to have dinner and not feel threatened by the riffraff. But also to do some outreach to the youth who are hanging around, to keep them off the streets and from getting in trouble."

A former gang member, who "luckily got myself straightened out," Fisher now has three children "and I'd like to guide my kids to make good choices. I feel the Guardian Angels would help with that. They could provide a better caliber of role models than the drug dealers and gangsters."

Wong said the Guardian Angels "do not invade cities," setting up branches only when invited. Each new branch is affiliated with the New York City-based Alliance of Guardian Angels, he said.

Once someone calls the group, representatives of a nearby chapter will act as a liaison to help that person, in this case Marc Garman of Vallejo, to get a local chapter going, Wong said. It is not instantaneous or easy, he said. The patience required is good training for the level-headedness desired in a good Guardian Angels member, according to the group's literature. The organization looks for level-headedness, dependability, persistence and responsibility in new chapter leaders, the literature notes.

Already established Guardian Angels will drive and walk around the community seeking a chapter to assess the type, scope and intensity of the area's problems, Wong said.

Vallejo is in step five of a six-step process for opening a chapter. That step - recruitment and training - starts with walks around areas with high pedestrian traffic, Wong said. The Angels' presence at two consecutive Wednesday Night Celebrations in downtown Vallejo, met that requirement, said Garman.

Training is taking place with members of the Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco chapters, several of whose members have come to Vallejo in recent weeks to help with downtown security, Garman said.

"It is critical for newcomers to the organization to learn the techniques the Angels have evolved over the years that are both effective and help ensure safety," he said. "The other Guardian Angels chapters will give us logistics and manpower support until Vallejo is able to stand on its own."

New chapters eventually establish their own fundraising programs, though initially, start-up money for items like berets comes from New York, the regional office and a nearby established chapter - in this case, Oakland, Wong said.

There are officially six people so far in the Vallejo chapter, Garman said. It's not an army, but it's a beginning, he said.

"Building a chapter in Vallejo will take time, but I think we have a good start and mostly positive response from the community," he said.

Garman said that in his time as a Guardian Angel in San Francisco, he saw a positive difference made.

"We do a lot of things police do not," he said. "The goal is not to perform the role of police, but to provide some overlap and do things police might not do. For example, we walked people to their cars after the (Wednesday Night Celebration) event. Often, incidents take place on the periphery of events like that. By providing a presence at the edges where police may not be able to provide coverage, Guardian Angels can have a real positive impact on overall safety."

The group has already rendered other services, as well, he said.

"At the last Wednesday Night event, we also broke up one fight," he said.

"One gal was trying to brain another with a 'Club' auto lock. Fortunately, we were able to intervene before anybody got hurt, and we prevailed on a third party to put the 'Club' in their trunk until things cooled off."

The Guardian Angels have also delved into the field of education in recent years through its CyberAngels program, which "patrols" the Internet. The group's school safety programs are mandated in New York and New Jersey, the Web site says. The organization has developed cooperative ventures with educational institutions to train teachers in classroom management and protocol, the site says.

Though some may feel the presence of the Angels in some way advertises Vallejo's need for extra protection, others say the city's reputation for crime, deserved or not, is already well developed.

"Having more citizens concerned with everyone's well-being is good," said Vallejo Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Rick Wells. "Do we need an explicit organization or group to do that? I don't know. But we're downtown, near the bus station, and we'd probably welcome them just like we did the bicycle cops or anyone else who has the safety of the area in mind."

Robert Briseno of Vallejo Main Street, an organization comprised of downtown business owners, said the consensus of opinion about a Guardian Angels chapter in Vallejo, is positive.

"We're encouraging it, and offering it as much support as we can," Briseno said. "At our most recent meeting, everyone seemed positive about it and I think we'd all like to see crime decrease."

If you're interested in volunteering for the Guardian Angels Vallejo Chapter e-mail

• E-mail Rachel Raskin- Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Patrol in the Mission, 9/20/08

On patrol today we had four Guardian Angels and covered a lot of ground. The weather was nice, and local residents were very glad to see us out today, including a MUNI bus driver who requested our assistance.

We started the afternoon by clearing Hunter's Alley. The alley was filthy with human feces and trash, and we picked up several used and discarded needles such as the ones pictured below. (You can click on the pictures to view a larger version)

After Hunter's Alley, we cleared an area next to a school that had several needles and beer bottles littered around it, and then we stopped by Kid Power Park where everything was clean and families were enjoying the nice weather. After that, we posted up at the 16th St. BART station (pictured below ) for a few minutes before heading down Mission St.

Everything went well down Mission, so we headed up to Alioto Park at 20th and Mission and searched the park to make sure it was safe for families to use. After a short break in Alioto Park, we headed down Mission and disrupted the drug traffic of some local dealers on Mission St. The dealers lounge against the wall of a business and store their drugs in a bag wedged in between two mail boxes. Every time we approach them they grab their bag of drugs and take off down the street. We continued down Mission to 24th St. and started to walk around the 24th St. BART station when a MUNI bus driver came out of his bus requesting our help.

There was an intoxicated man passed out on the bus who the driver could not wake up, but the driver had to get the man off the bus in order to continue his work day, so he asked us to get the man off the bus. Intoxicated bus riders or people under the influence of other drugs often attack the bus drivers, so we were happy to help the driver with the situation. We tried several times to wake the man, but he was out cold. He had both his hands in his lap though, so one Guardian Angel grabbed his left wrist and another grabbed his right wrist, and we pulled him out of his seat and stood him up while restraining him to prevent him from attacking us. He snapped out of his stupor as soon as we had him on his feet, but he resisted leaving the bus. We informed him his option was to leave the bus or go to jail, and after that he decided to comply and we escorted him off the bus.

After that, we posted up at 24 St. BART for awhile to observe the station before heading down Mission St. to clear Travis Alley. Travis Alley was relatively clean, and after that we headed down 24th St. towards Portero Ave. where there have been a lot of shootings lately. Everything went smoothly though and we looped back to check in on 24th St. Mini Park where some local residents took a picture of us.

The park was clear, so we headed back up Mission and checked Alioto Park once more to make sure no one was doing drugs there, and then we continued back up Mission St. to visit Hunter's Alley once again and another parallel alley. In the few hours since we had first cleared Hunter's Alley, some drug users had clearly been back as we found several more used needles and two dope cookers (pictured below).

After Hunter's Alley, we checked another alley nearby and came across another dope cooker and a crack pipe (pictured below). We put the dope cookers into a zip-lock bag and throw them away, but we dispose of the needles and crack pipes at the San Francisco Needle exchange. While on patrol, we carry the needles and crack pipes in portable containers provided by the needle exchange. All told, at the end of the day we had collected 16 needles, 1 crack pipe, and 3 dope cookers.

We received lots of positive feedback from people on the street and several motorists, including one who is going to make a donation and two individuals who were interested in becoming Guardian Angels themselves. If you would like to become a San Francisco Guardian Angel, send us an email at

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Patrol in the Mission, 9/13/08

On patrol in the Mission today things went smoothly, but there is a lot of tension in the neighborhood over the recent murder of the SF Hell's Angels leader and his upcoming funeral as hundreds of bikers are anticipated to arrive today and tomorrow. We did our normal patrol and ran into some local news stations who interviewed us.

The weather was cool as we cleared Hunter's Alley. We came across a homeless couple eating lunch in the alley and picked up five used needles. The pic below is of three Guardian Angels at the mid-point of Hunter's Alley.

After Hunter's Alley we walked down a parallel alley on our way to Kid Power Park and came across two men camped out in between the cars of local residents. We had them leave the area as someone's driveway is not a campground. When we got to Kid Power park (pictured below) it was filled with families enjoying the day. We searched the park but didn't find any contraband.

After Kid Power Park we headed down Mission Street and broke up a drug deal. Two men had cash in hand and a drug dealer was about to pull the drugs out of his pocket when he saw us approaching about 20 feet away. He immediately put whatever he had in his pocket and took off. The potential buyers saw us, put their money back in their pockets and walked off.

We then walked to Alioto Park and woke up a sleeping man and told him that he can't sleep in the park. Oftentimes, people will use the park to sleep on the benches which creates a hostile atmosphere for any families that want to use the park. Two men were in a corner of the park and looked to be dealing or using drugs, but when we questioned them they denied it, but as we took a break and made it clear we weren't leaving they left the park shortly thereafter.

We proceeded to the 24th St. BART station and posted up for a while. Then we headed down Mission to 25th to clear Travis Alley. As we were walking towards Travis Alley, a man ahead of us turned down the alley, and we suspected he might be getting ready to deal or use drugs, so we gave him some time to get settled and then headed down the alley.

When we came upon him he was standing to the side of the alley appearing to be waiting on someone. We exchanged friendly "hellos" and continued to clear the alley. After we passed by him though he immediately left the alley, but soon after he left two men came down the alley, looked around, and then sarcastically asked us if we had any weed to sell them. We had clearly just gotten in the way of their drug deal with the man who had just left the alley.

After Travis Alley, we walked down 24th St. towards Potrero and when we passed Treat, there were news vans and crews outside shooting a story about the Hell's Angels leader who was shot there. They interviewed and filmed us for a bit, and then we continued on our patrol.

We headed back up Mission St. to 16th St. and took the bus back to end the day.
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Saturday, September 6, 2008

On patrol in the Mission, 9/6/08

Today we set out for our patrol with seven Guardian Angels for what was a very hot day in the Mission. With the recent spike in homicides and rising crime in general, we were unsure of how the day would go. Residents were grateful to see us and the patrol went smoothly. While we were waiting for the bus to take us to 16th and Mission, a cab driver pulled up and said he would give us a ride. He was very happy to see us out on patrol and gave us a free ride to the Mission.

We started out by clearing Hunter's Alley where we found several used needles along with some dope cookers. We then went to check on Kid Power park, and a man was passed out face down on the sidewalk in front of the park. I tried to call the Mobile Assistance Patrol to come and pick him up, but I couldn't get through. Throughout the day we saw several men passed out laying on the street, so MAP was probably overwhelmed with calls. A police officer came out and tended to the man as we left on patrol.

On our way down Mission St. we walked amongst the people sitting around the 16th St. BART station and one man had a half-full 40 oz bottle of beer with him and we told him he couldn't drink in public and either needed to pour it out or leave the area. He chose to leave the area.

We continued down Mission St. which was not nearly as crowded as it usually is on Saturday afternoons. It may have been the heat or all the recent shootings, but there were not many people out today. We walked to Alioto park and everything was clear there, so then we headed down Mission to 25th St. and then cleared Travis Alley. For the past few months Travis Alley has been cleaner than in the past, but today we came across several used needles there. We ended up collecting 15 used needles today.

After Travis Alley we walked down 24th St. to Potrero Ave. to patrol the areas where many of the shootings have been happening. People in that area were happy to see us in their community as things have been so bad lately.

We walked back to the 24th St. BART station and posted up for a while before heading back up Mission St. to check Alioto Park once more before heading back for the day. All in all, it was a good day with no incidents. There were many more police officers out on the streets than usual which will hopefully contain the escalating violence.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Mission homicides continue

The Mission District is our primary patrol area and many of these homicides occur at night in the same areas we patrol. Gang activity along with drug sales and robberies are common in the Mission. This is a map of Mission homicides 2008 to date. The yellow dots are the most recent homicides and you can click on the map for a larger version.

2 Goodwill workers shot to death in latest Mission violence
Henry K. Lee,Steve Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writers

Friday, September 5, 2008

Two men who worked together at Goodwill Industries were shot and killed overnight on the edge of San Francisco's Mission District, the latest spasm of violence in an area where six people have been slain in the past two weeks, police said today.

Police announced several measures to respond to the violence, including adding foot and car patrols to Mission District streets and deploying more gang task force members to the neighborhood.

The slain men were with a woman at 24th and Utah streets just south of San Francisco General Hospital about 9:45 p.m. Thursday when two men walked up and opened fire, hitting all three, police said. The gunmen got into a waiting minivan that drove off on 24th Street, investigators said.

The shooting happened a couple of doors down 24th Street from where one of the victims, 19-year-old Noel Espinoza, lived. He died at San Francisco General at 10:26 p.m., the medical examiner's office said.

Goodwill said the other slain man was Matthew Solomon, 23, of San Francisco. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The woman, a 22-year-old San Francisco resident whose name was withheld, is expected to survive.

The double slaying happened about 3 1/2 hours after someone opened fire on a man and a woman sitting in a car with a young child in the backseat around 18th and Bryant streets, police said.

The two adults suffered what police described as life-threatening injuries and were being treated at San Francisco General. The child was unhurt.

Police did not immediately release detailed descriptions of the attackers in either shooting, and there was no further description of the minivan used in the double slaying.

Authorities said they would take several steps in response to the violence, including increasing beat patrols along Mission Street and adding cars to parts of the Mission and Ingleside neighborhoods and authorizing additional overtime to pay for the extra patrols.

Police officials also said they would put additional gang task force members and undercover drug officers in the Mission and double the number of school resource officers at Mission High School.

"The violence in the Mission is unacceptable," Police Chief Heather Fong said at a press conference at the Hall of Justice. "People involved in gang and drug activity have no regard for the community."

Fong did not say how many extra officers would be assigned or how much additional overtime would be authorized. She said announcing specific figures would be "counterproductive."

Police had already increased patrols in the Mission in the wake of the shooting death of the president of the San Francisco chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle club. Mark Guardado, 45, was shot at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday near 24th Street and Treat Avenue, about a mile from the group's clubhouse on Tennessee Street where he lived.

The men slain at 24th and Utah streets worked at Goodwill's store and processing center at Mission and Van Ness Avenue and were friends, said chief executive officer Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez. Both had started as "transitional employees," who are typically referrals from programs for at-risk youths.

Espinoza and Solomon had recently been promoted to permanent positions at Goodwill, and Alvarez-Rodriguez praised them as "exemplary employees who had really turned their lives around."

Solomon had been featured as employee of the month in a recent company newsletter and Espinoza was scheduled to receive the same honor in the next issue, she said.

The recent outburst of violence in the Mission began Aug. 22, when 47-year-old Samuel Mitchell was shot to death at 26th and Folsom streets. On Aug. 24, Jorge Hurtado, 18, was shot and killed at Treat and 23rd Street.

Then, on Monday, Marcelino Canul-Castro, 24, was shot and killed at San Carlos and 18th streets.

No arrests have been made in any of the killings.

The most recent slayings were the 70th and 71st in the city this year. In all of 2007 there were 98 homicides, the highest total in San Francisco since 1995.

Alvarez-Rodriguez said Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties has been hit particularly hard by the violence. In the past two years, she said, 10 of its employees and counseling clients have been killed in shootings.

"This is a huge blow," she said. "So many of these young men and women live in neighborhoods where violence is happening. I wish to God it wasn't happening, but this is their home."

E-mail the writers at and

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

SF Chronicle finally realizes that San Francisco isn't a safe city

After running article after article about the robberies and shootings in Oakland over the past several months, the Chronicle reports today that SF also has its large share of increasing violent crime.

Surge of robberies in the Bay Area and beyond

Erin McCormick, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A drug-crazed man runs up behind a woman in San Francisco's Marina district and pulls her to the street as he tries to wrestle her purse away.

A group of young men surrounds a commuter on a Muni bus at Fifth and Market streets; they point a gun at him and demand his iPod.

A hooded man yells at customers in a pizzeria in Oakland's Oakmore neighborhood to put their wallets on their tables, as his partner waves a revolver.

More than 40 robberies occur every day in the Bay Area - and they are happening far more often than just a few years ago.

While recent high-profile restaurant robberies have citizens calling for police to crack down on commercial holdups, the total number of robberies in the nine-county region was up nearly 40 percent in 2007 compared with 2004, according to the FBI's most recent figures.

<< Maps: Robberies in S.F. | Oakland >>

<< Databases: Look up individual robbery data for S.F. | Oakland >>

Some of the worst spots are busy hubs for commuters and shoppers, including the areas around the 12th Street BART Station in downtown Oakland, and San Francisco shopping districts at Fifth and Market streets and the Metreon at Fourth and Mission streets, according to a Chronicle analysis.

"Robberies are the soup du jour of crime," said David Kozicki, deputy police chief of Oakland, which has been hit hardest by the recent takeover robberies, in which armed thieves force customers and employees of restaurants to hand over their money. "I've heard from cities around the nation: Robberies are getting worse."

The Bay Area violence follows a national surge that some experts fear signals the end of a long downturn that began in the 1990s and has allowed once-crime-ridden areas to grow into trendy neighborhoods. Now some of those areas are starting to see old crime problems returning.

The Chronicle examined location records of more than 30,000 robberies in San Francisco and Oakland since 2004, as well as statistics for other Bay Area cities, and found a gloomy outlook:

-- Between 2004 and 2006, robberies spiked in the region, going from 11,264 a year to 15,698, then leveling off in 2007 at 15,646. Bay Area-wide statistics from the FBI aren't available for 2008. But, running counts in San Francisco and Oakland show both cities' numbers are higher this year.

-- Strong-arm robberies, in which the assailants used only bodily force, are the most prevalent. But in both San Francisco and Oakland, the percentage of robberies involving guns has crept up since 2005 - from 30 to 39 percent.

-- IPods, laptop computers and fancy cell phones are such hot items for robbers that some investigators suggest the increasing prevalence of these expensive, easy-to-sell accessories in public places may be a driving force behind the robbery surge.

-- Some of the areas that have seen the biggest increases in robberies are up-and-coming neighborhoods that had seemed to have risen above historical crime problems. These include Oakland's Rockridge district and neighborhoods in the lower hills, such as Oakmore and Glenview near Park Boulevard, and San Francisco's Glen Park.

Criminologists warn that the faltering economy probably will make matters worse.
Economic downturn

"The steep economic downturn of 2007 and 2008 portends a crime rise that may dwarf (recent) increases," wrote University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologists Richard Rosenfeld and Brian Oliver, in a paper presented at a national criminal justice conference in July. "Local communities should plan for new crime increases in the years ahead."

San Francisco's biggest hot spot is the intersection of 16th and Mission streets, where police say drug-dealing activity and the heavy traffic coming in and out of the BART station combine to offer a perfect opportunity for muggings. There were 58 robberies reported there during 2007 and the first half of 2008. More than 70 percent of these were strong-arm robberies.

But, block for block, there is no denser concentration of robberies than in San Francisco's Tenderloin. The area of halfway houses and residence hotels is plagued with drug dealing, prostitution and drunkenness - and police say robberies go hand in hand.

The Tenderloin has six of San Francisco's 15 worst intersections for robbery and typically experiences about a robbery a day.

People involved in the drug scene are often both the perpetrators and victims of robberies there, police say. But others get hit as well, including residents from Southeast Asia and Central American whose numbers have recently increased in the neighborhood. Some mornings, police say, robbers set up at bus stops along Hyde Street to hit commuters.

In Oakland, the rough neighborhoods around the Eastmont Mall and the Fruitvale district are favored hunting grounds. In the Fruitvale area, police say day laborers are major targets of robbers looking for cash.

But other hot spots are transit or shopping hubs, where crowds mingle and, police say, robbers have lots of potential targets and getaway options.

In Oakland, the single worst hot spot is the intersection of Broadway and 13th Street near the 12th Street BART Station. In San Francisco, Halladie Plaza, the shopping area on Market Street near Fifth Street and a busy corner at Third and Market streets have similar characteristics.

San Francisco Robbery Lt. William Canning said these are locations where shoppers, tourists and commuters inevitably end up rubbing elbows with gang members, drug users and homeless people. The result can be volatile.

"These are transit corridors," said Canning. "You have a crossroads where all kinds of people come together. Unfortunately, that can be a useful environment to the criminal element."

Robbery Sgt. Shaughn Ryan said many of these spots - particularly the corner of Fourth and Mission streets, at the Metreon - are weekend hangouts for youths, who often form rat packs that target other youths.
Oakmore neighborhood

Yet some of the neighborhoods that have seen the biggest increases in robberies are places that once seemed to have largely overcome crime.

Oakland's Oakmore neighborhood, where Joseph Radwan and his family decided to open the Red Boy Pizzeria earlier this year, seems a world away from the violence in many nearby East Oakland neighborhoods.

Nestled in the lower hills among winding streets and oak trees, it and the neighboring Glenview district have seen business boom with trendy new restaurants and cafes moving in along Park and Leimert Boulevards - during a time when crime was on the wane in both Oakland and the nation.

Yet on March 31, eight days after the restaurant opened, two juveniles wearing dark hoodies walked in just as the last two tables of customers were getting ready to leave before closing time.

"One guy went around the tables to the customers and said, 'Get all your cash and put it on the table.' The other guy just sort of swung his gun around," said Radwan, who manages the restaurant that is co-owned by his parents. "It was terrifying."
Crime doubles in lower hills

In Oakland as a whole, robberies increased by 23 percent between 2005 and 2007, but robberies in the lower hills police beats that encompass Oakmore, Glenview, Lakeshore and the Dimond district nearly doubled - going from 34 to 63. Similarly, the upscale Rockridge neighborhood in North Oakland saw robberies jump from 36 in 2005 to 68 last year. (Oakland's crime numbers at the neighborhood level are not available for 2004 because of a change in the police department computer system.)

"The crooks have realized we're easy marks," said Vivek Bhatia, a management consultant who moved to Rockridge in 2001 and has since become the neighborhood's self-appointed crime expert. After the huge surge in muggings there a couple years ago, he started a neighborhood Web site with monthly crime statistics and installed seven video cameras to guard his home.

His records show the number of violent crimes in the neighborhood have nearly tripled since 2005.

Bhatia said residents often open themselves to becoming victims by failing to take basic precautions, such as locking doors and keeping valuables out of sight. "Nobody wants to admit there's crime here, because it's hard to say, 'I just spent big money to live in a neighborhood with crime problems.' "

"If I'm a robber, how am I going to grow my business? This was an untapped market. "

Similarly, crime figures in San Francisco's Glen Park and Diamond Heights neighborhoods risen far faster this year than the city overall. The two neighboring areas in the Ingleside police district had 20 robberies in the first half of this year, compared with 16 in all of 2005.

Starting in late 2005, police began to notice that robbers were more prevalent and younger - and they had their eyes on high-tech gadgets. Groups of youths as young as 13 or 14 would surround someone and grab the victim's iPod.

"We noticed a significant rise in juvenile crime," said San Francisco Police Capt. John Loftus, who headed the robbery division when the rise in crime started. "I'm not sure if there were more kids or whether they just weren't behaving."

In fact, researchers say the number of teenagers in the population is relatively level.

San Francisco's Canning, who now heads the robbery unit, said there have been cases where young girls were the robbers.

Loftus and other officers speculated that a new generation of gadgetry hitting the streets at the same time might have increased the temptation.

"The iPods came out around this time and wireless became popular. You'd have people sitting in cafes pecking away at $4,000 or $5,000 pieces of equipment. That's a very desirous piece of equipment for a kid to have."

Since the beginning of the year, Canning said his department has recorded robberies involving thefts of 37 iPhones, 122 other cell phones, 100 portable music players and 56 laptops.

The robbers "either keep them or sell them for quick cash," said Canning. "If I steal your $2,000 laptop and get $100 for it, I'm happy."
Armed robbery statistics up

Statistics show the percentage of robberies involving guns also increased since 2005.

In Oakland, armed robberies are far more prevalent than in San Francisco. In the first five months of 2008, guns were involved in 55 percent of Oakland's robberies, up from 41 percent in 2005. In San Francisco, robberies involving guns climbed from 21 to 25 percent, according to The Chronicle's analysis.

The robbery on a Muni bus at Fifth and Market streets on Aug. 13 was the kind of holdup police report again and again.

Six 17-and-18-year-olds surrounded a man in his 20s as he was preparing to get off the 71-Haight bus at 8:30 in the evening. One of the robbers pulled a gun and demanded his iPod.

The man jumped off the bus and reported the robbery to police at the nearby Powell Street BART station, and the robbers continued riding the bus. BART Police called the San Francisco Police Department, which teamed up with Muni to track down the bus as it headed toward Haight Street. San Francisco officers caught up with the bus on Haight Street, arrested three suspects and detained three others.

The 24 hours beginning at 7:30 p.m. on July 30 show the kind of mayhem facing police on an almost daily basis.

In rapid succession, two purse snatchers violently attacked three women walking separately in the early evening in the Marina in San Francisco. In the first attack, the robbers grabbed a woman's purse and then forced her to the ground. Eight minutes and two blocks later, the robbers did the same thing to another woman, pushing her to the ground in the middle of a street. In the third incident, the robbers' getaway vehicle hit their victim, leaving her with serious head injuries.

Police quickly nabbed two suspects - one of whom admitted committing the crimes, saying he and his accomplice needed money to buy crack cocaine.

Two hours later, near Harrison and 20th streets in the Mission District, two men were shot when they resisted a robbery attempt by another male. One sustained life-threatening injuries - the robber got away.

In the East Bay 6:15 the next morning, two men went on a robbery spree that included five street muggings in Oakland and Emeryville. In one of the robberies, at the Wells Fargo bank on Piedmont Avenue, the assailants allegedly targeted a woman who was eight months pregnant and punched her in the stomach to get her cash. The robbers were nabbed in Berkeley after a witness reported them trying to use a stolen credit card at a gas station.

In addition to these high-profile cases during the 24 hours, there was a taco truck holdup in San Francisco's Mission District, an armed holdup in downtown Oakland at 11th Street and Broadway and two other strong-arm robberies in Oakland.

"We get so many of these cases, we just get buried," said Police Sgt. Larry Krupp, who heads Oakland's robbery unit.

But for the robbery victims, the experience can be life-shattering.

Terri, one of the women accosted by the purse snatchers in the Marina on July 30, said the most frightening thing was that this happened in broad daylight in one of the safest neighborhoods in San Francisco. Yet no one came to her aid as she screamed and struggled with her attacker.

"As a single woman living in the city, I always thought if I screamed loud enough somebody would come and help me," said Terri, who asked that her last name not be used because she fears retribution from the two suspects who are facing robbery charges.

"But the reality is nobody is going to come. It made me see the city in a whole different light."

Databases, maps: Where are the worst robbery spots in San Francisco and Oakland? And how many robberies were in your area? Search our interactive maps and databases featured at

Define the crime

The FBI defines robbery as a violent crime which includes the taking or attempt to take anything of value from a person by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear. Carjackings, stickups, muggings and commercial holdups are all considered forms of robbery.

Home burglaries where there is no confrontation between the thief and the victim are not considered robberies. Nor are pickpocket incidents that don't involve threats or violence.

Purse snatchings can be a gray area. Typically, police say, they are classified as robberies only if there is violence involved such as pushing the victim to the ground. Grabbing a laptop computer off a table in a cafe would be classified as a theft.

Strong-arm robberies are those in which the thief uses or threatens to use bodily force, such as hitting, kicking or choking. Armed robberies can involve any type of weapon, real or improvised, from a gun to a stick or a rock.

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook and police sources

Chronicle intern Sabine Scherer contributed to this report. E-mail Erin McCormick at

This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Glen Park business owners attacked

While Oakland has been hit lately by take-over robberies at restaurants throughout the city, San Francisco has not been immune. If you are a restaurant owner or worker and would like the help of the San Francisco Guardian Angels in protecting your business and patrons, please contact us at:

Store owner beaten and stabbed in S.F. heist

Rachel Gordon, Chronicle Staff Writer

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Armed robbers beat and stabbed the owner of a corner grocery store in San Francisco's Glen Park neighborhood late Friday night, and another store employee was kidnapped and later released, police reported.

Paul Park, who owns Buddies Market at the corner of Chenery and Diamond streets, was getting ready to go home around 11 p.m. when he was confronted by three or four suspects who reportedly broke in through the rear door.

"The suspects beat and stabbed the store's owner, robbed the store of cash and kidnapped an employee. The suspects escaped by stealing the store's van. The employee was released in Daly City," San Francisco police Capt. Denis O'Leary wrote in a crime alert he e-mailed to neighborhood residents and merchants.

He described the suspects as black males wearing dark clothing.

Park, who had been bound and gagged and was suffering from multiple stab wounds, managed to cross the street and seek help at Le P'tit Laurent, a French bistro.

"It was really scary, really terrible," said owner Laurent Legendre, who summoned police.

Park was in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital Saturday. The name and condition of the employee who was kidnapped were not immediately available.

Park is known by neighbors as a hardworking businessman who puts in long hours at his mom-and-pop store.

The store's van, which was used in the getaway, is still missing. It is a tan-colored 2002 Toyota Siena, with California license plate No. 4VHN307. Police ask anyone who spots the van to call 911.

Anyone with additional information about the crime is asked to call the SFPD robbery unit at (415) 553-1201 during normal business hours or the operations center after hours at (415) 553-1071.

E-mail Rachel Gordon at

This article appeared on page B - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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SFGA history: Guardian Angels back on their feet

Guardian Angels back on their feet

Volunteer patrol returns to help clean up trouble spots

San Francisco Chronicle : Friday, December 17, 2004

The red berets are back.

Two decades after their heyday, the Guardian Angels are again patrolling the streets of the Tenderloin and Mission in their trademark headgear.

After membership dwindled to practically zero in the mid-1990s, the San Francisco chapter of the Guardian Angels is up to 45 active members, with plans for a bigger headquarters and a new chapter in Oakland.

"We're just people who care about our community," said Marcia Martin, a recovering drug addict who joined the all-volunteer safety patrol seven months ago. "We come from all walks of life. We're just trying to make the streets safe for the elderly, moms and kids."

The Guardian Angels are a nonprofit with chapters throughout the United States, mostly concentrated on the East Coast. San Francisco's chapter reached its zenith in the 1980s, with more than 200 members.

These days, the local Angels operate out of a small office at the Hotel Rose on the seediest block of Sixth Street. Members go out on three- to eight- hour shifts, walking the streets in groups of two to six in search of crime.

They're not armed, but that hardly matters. The Angels say their mere presence often deters crime. Easily identifiable in their red berets, fatigues and white sweatshirts with bright red logo, the Angels do leave an impression.

"We know how to spot a perpetrator. We just hang out and the criminals know we're not going to leave," said Juan Carlos Morales, leader of the San Francisco chapter. "When the Guardian Angels are around, it's a lot less likely that crimes will be committed."

San Francisco Police Lt. Larry Minasian said he hasn't had any contact with the local chapter of the Guardian Angels, but in general they can be a beneficial presence.

"As long as they don't overstep their bounds and become pseudo-police, they can be a big help keeping the bad guys down," he said. "As long as they're identifiable and don't create more trouble than they're trying to prevent, they can serve a useful purpose."

The Angels are a familiar presence at Kentucky Fried Chicken at Polk and Eddy streets. In exchange for discounted meals, they stop in periodically and stay for an hour or so.

"If there's someone in the restaurant panhandling, or using the restrooms or bothering the customers, or digging in the garbage, the Angels will talk to them and take them outside," owner Francis Gomez said. "Most of the time they just come in and check up on us, make sure everything is OK."

Gomez said they're great for the neighborhood.

"I think it's a good idea to have them around, as long as they're professional and respectful," he said. "And they are."

The Angels undergo intensive training in martial arts, handcuff use, patrol techniques, the penal code and CPR, conducted in the library at the Hotel Rose. While on patrol, they carry cell phones, first-aid kits, notebooks and handcuffs.

The training program lasts about 10 hours a week for three months, although the martial arts training is ongoing, thanks to a donation from a martial arts studio in San Rafael.

Applicants must be at least 16 years old, have no serious criminal record and be working or attending school.

When they see a crime in progress, they sometimes make citizens' arrests, handcuff the perpetrator and call the police. Once the police arrive, the Angels can help with police reports and serve as witnesses, if necessary. But their main goal is to prevent crimes from happening, often by diffusing tense situations before they escalate.

Recently, Morales and five of his cohorts intervened in a drug-related fight brewing among about 40 people on Sixth Street. Undaunted by the numbers, Morales got in the middle and managed to calm the two sides down, he and Martin said.

"A little guy owed a big guy money, and he didn't have it so the big guy was jumping up and down," Morales said. "I went after the big guy first, and it turned out I knew him because he goes to St. Anthony's. So I told him, 'Do you really want to go to jail?' And that seemed to calm him down."

Morales works at St. Anthony's as a security guard, and the "big guy" was a client there.

"The main thing is communication," he said. "You treat people with respect. They know who I am and what I do, and they respected that. Sure, they might have had guns, but that's a risk you take."

Perhaps the Angels' most effective crime-fighting tool is that many of them live in the neighborhoods they patrol, which gives them a credibility the police might not have.

Morales grew up in foster homes in San Francisco and was spending time with the Border Brothers gang, until he went to a foster care meeting and met a few Guardian Angels.

"I saw their uniforms and asked them what gang they were in," Morales said. "They said, 'We're not a gang, we're the Guardian Angels.' The next day I was checking it out. I loved the fact they were against crime and drugs and were helping the community."

Morales has been a member, on and off, for 14 years. When he's not at his regular job he's organizing trainings, patrols and expansion plans for the Guardian Angels.

Despite his love of crime prevention, however, he says he would never become a police officer.

"I have nothing against cops. My brother is a cop," he said. "But if I became a cop, I know for sure I'd be a corrupt cop. When you put on that cop uniform, you gain so much power. I know I'd do something I'd regret."

Martin, one of three women on the squad, joined seven months ago. A former drug addict and victim of domestic violence, Martin said she joined the Angels as a way of "taking my power back and redirecting my time."

Her particular crusade is to protect mothers, children and the elderly. She also reaches out to women who need drug treatment -- a position she was in not long ago.
"I've been there," she said. "They're not criminals. They need help. We talk to them about a better way of life. We talk to them with a friendly attitude, and communicate with respect. It really works."

But no matter how tied they are to a community, the Angels would have little success at all without the cooperation of the police. In San Francisco, the police ask the Angels' help in patrolling certain blocks or trouble spots. They also inform the Angels of special projects in progress so the Angels can keep clear.

A decade ago, however, that relationship was not so friendly.

One day the Angels chased down an apparent drug offender, slammed him so hard to the sidewalk his head was cut open, and proceeded to handcuff him. They let up just long enough for the alleged perpetrator to show his police badge.

Shortly thereafter, the Angels all but disbanded in San Francisco. But now the chapter has new management, an improved relationship with the police department and increasing membership.

They're currently planning to move to a space across the street, at 72 Sixth St., a former coin laundry facility donated by a nearby hotel. The space remains vacant, however, pending new plaster, paint and cleaning. Once it's refurbished, the Angels hope to use it for training and recreation.

"You can't complain about the neighborhood unless you're prepared to do something about it," said Martin. "Well, we're doing something about it."

Where to go:

The Guardian Angels' San Francisco headquarters are at 125 Sixth St., San Francisco. To volunteer or donate, call the office at (415) 495-0403, or Juan Carlos Morales, chapter leader, at (415) 368-4475.

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SFGA history: Angels Watching Over Muni / Unarmed volunteer patrols ride buses to deter crime

Angels Watching Over Muni / Unarmed volunteer patrols ride buses to deter crime;

San Francisco, Calif.: Aug 10, 1994. pg. A.15

Tom Joson now says a little prayer before boarding a public bus in San Francisco, asking God to protect him from criminals.

A recent wave of violent crime on the city's Municipal Railway buses had left the 39-year-old man scared. But his fears lightened a little yesterday, when he saw three Guardian Angels board the No. 14-Mission bus and stand around him.

"Now, I feel more safe," Joson said with a smile.

In response to an outbreak of violent crime on Muni in the past four days, including the stabbing of a 20-year-old man Monday night, a dozen Guardian Angels boarded buses from 7 a.m. to midnight yesterday to help police restore safety on city buses.

By the end of the week, as many as 30 Guardian Angels will ride the No. 9, 14, 15 and 48 lines, the routes having the most problems, said Eric Johnson, San Francisco chapter leader of the Guardian Angels. They will continue to act as "visual deterrents" on Muni buses until Mayor Frank Jordan puts more officers on patrol in high-crime areas.

The latest violent crime on Muni occurred about 9 p.m. Monday, when five men in their 20s stabbed a 20-year-old man repeatedly in his right leg and upper back after an argument on the No. 15 bus at Geneva and Santos streets.

The man is in fair condition and is being treated for seven stab wounds to his leg and one to his upper back at San Francisco General Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said.

In another incident, a gang fight broke out on a No. 14 bus at 18th and Mission streets early Sunday. On Saturday, an off-duty security guard shot to death a man who attempted to stab a female passenger aboard a westbound No. 9-San Bruno bus.

"What happened this weekend, especially so close together, is very unusual," Muni spokesman Alan Siegel said. "People need to know that they can still ride the buses safely. This system is a secure system."

Muni carries 730,000 riders each weekday, and very little crime occurs relative to the number of people who use the system, Siegel said.

After the weekend incidents, Mayor Jordan said he would try to increase the number of police officers assigned to the transit system.

Siegel said Muni is working with police and the mayor's office to increase the number of officers assigned to Muni security from 17 to 50, reassign some officers to high-crime areas and require foot patrol officers to also ride buses occasionally.
But it could take three months for more officers to finish the police academy or for the city to fund 33 new officers in its budget.

Until then, Johnson said the Guardian Angels are prepared to pitch in and help patrol the buses.

"Our presence is making a difference," Johnson said. "I've gotten on buses that were rowdy and watched it quiet down quite a bit."

Many riders said they felt safer with the Guardian Angels on board. But some said the Angels' presence made little difference, but added that they would continue to ride Muni.

"It's just the sign of the times," said Winnie Ahern, 50, a San Francisco homemaker who rides the Muni every day. "You can't stop living just because some people want you to. Once you become a prisoner, you're a prisoner forever."

PHOTO; Caption: Eric Johnson, San Francisco chapter leader of the Guardian Angels, rode a Muni bus with two other red-beret-wearing members of the public protection group / BY MICHAEL MACOR/THE CHRONICLE

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SFGA history: Guardian Angels support good Samaritan cab driver

Angry Outcry Over Award For Mugger / Verdict a 'terrible message to all good Samaritans';

Feb 8, 1992. pg. A.1

Public outrage yesterday greeted a jury's award of $24,595 to a convicted mugger whose leg was broken when a cab driver pinned him to a wall with his cab while apprehending him.

Major media in San Francisco as well as officials in City Hall received a torrent of calls from people angry over Thursday's verdict against Holden Charles Hollom. The 50-year-old veteran cabbie had been hailed as a hero for capturing Ocie McClure after he robbed a Japanese tourist on Market Street in May 1989.

"My God, there's few of us enough who have the guts to do something like that," lamented Desmond Reeves, a San Franciscan retiree. "And this guy gets soaked for his pain because in the excitement of the moment he used a little excess force. As far as I'm concerned, the mugger should be dead."

San Francisco radio station KGO and the Los Banos accounting firm of Vogt and Hurley set up funds to pay the award against Hollom. Meanwhile, the Guardian Angels staged a demonstration at the San Francisco law office of McClure's lawyer.

"We're expressing public outrage at the terrible message this verdict sends to all potential good Samaritans -- that opportunist lawyers are stalking them for lawsuits, and will probably win, at a time when we need more public participation. It defies common sense," said Christopher Ford, the Guardian Angels' regional coordinator.

A spokeswoman for the Luxor Cab Co., which owns the cab Hollom drives, said the firm has been inundated with calls from as far away as Southern California, Oregon and Washington by people "who can't believe something like this is happening in the United States."

And the lines in Mayor Frank Jordan's office were tied up with calls from angry residents voicing support for the cabbie.

Amid all the reaction, Ian Zimmerman, McClure's lawyer, protested that news accounts have not given the public a fair presentation of the facts.

"If the public had the information the jury had, they would come to the same conclusion," he said.

He contended that McClure was winded and so tired that he was vulnerable to easy apprehension after being chased for blocks by several cab drivers following the late night purse snatch.

Hollom, he said, drove his cab around another taxi, pinned McClure against the wall and left his car in park with McClure's leg wedged against the wall for four minutes.
McClure later underwent three operations on the leg.

"His leg was broken in two places, and on one of the breaks, a bone was displaced. An artery was severed. A muscle was torn and just hanging there. It was gruesome. It looked like chopped meat," Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said McClure, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence, is unlikely to get any of the money. Any damages, he said, would go to the city because he was treated at public expense.

At the same time, it is doubtful that Hollom will ever pay a dime, even if he loses the case on appeal. His attorney said Luxor has paid his legal fees and probably would pay any damage award.

If he had it to do over again, he would, said the 275-pound Hollom.

"He was a specter running down the street," said Hollom. "Visualize a man the size, shape and build of Mike Tyson, his eyeballs bulging, sweat popping out of his head. You had to see him."

Jurors never saw McClure, who is serving his sentence at Deuel Vocational Institute at Tracy. His pretrial testimony was read to the jury during the six-day trial.

PHOTO; Caption: Holden Charles Hollom pinned a mugger to a wall with his cab / BY FREDERIC LARSON/THE CHRONICLE

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