In the wake of recent violence, the San Francisco Guardian Angels is working to prevent more crime. Stephanie Chuang reports.
A 20-year-old man is fighting for his life after he was stabbed in the Mission District of San Francisco early Thursday morning.
Just an hour later about a mile away at Cesar Chavez and South Van Ness, San Francisco police say another 20-year-old man was stabbed by two men in a gang-motivated attack.
Police arrested Jose Dzultuz, 20, of San Francisco in the first stabbing, but the suspects in the second are still on the run.
One group says it can’t be up to just police to fight crime.
The San Francisco Guardian Angels said they’re fed up and stepping up patrols. The nationwide non-profit is made up of volunteers who don red berets and black boots, and make it their mission to put more eyes and ears on the streets of their cities. The San Francisco chapter began in the 80s, but chapter leader Joe Salcedo said the group is working on stepping up patrols now, in response to the reports of robberies around the Mission and Tenderloin.
In fact, SFPD is crediting the group’s help with stopping two crimes in February. In the first attack, the group intervened in an assault where a man was confronted by several others.
“It was pretty violent. The victim was on the ground with somebody over him, grabbing him by his throat,” said Joe Salcedo, SF Guardian Angels Chapter Leader.
The primary focus right now is curbing the number of violent robberies, usually of personal electronics like iPhones and iPads. Salcedo added the biggest problem areas have been the Tenderloin and Mission neighborhoods.
Sgt. Michael Andraychak of SFPD said half of last year’s robberies were of electronics.
“Unfortunately, quite a large number of these robberies were people [getting] assaulted,” he said.
The Guardian Angels said they have tactics in place to help apprehend suspects until police arrive.
“If somebody’s running down the street, we get a couple Angels on the other end to pinch them off so they won’t have anywhere to run."
They added they’re they’re trained in martial arts and self-defense -- two-requirements to joining the group -- but they want more training. On Thursday, during their first meeting with Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, they asked if the sheriff’s office could provide that help. Mirkarimi told NBC Bay Area he’s not sure that can happen but he’s happy the dialogue with the Guardian Angels has taken off.
“I think it’s smart on their part to develop relationships not only with community but also with law enforcement," Mirkarimi said. “This is a motivated group of people.”
As for the role that the group plays on the streets, both the sheriff and SFPD agreed that it’s been nothing but positive because the Guardian Angels don’t veer into vigilante justice. In addition, the extra eyes and ears on the streets help provide coverage when officers aren’t around.
“These are not always the crimes SFPD or others are going to respond to, so if they’re on the street and able to serve as a deterrent or help that person just robbed, or in distress, then we can only thank them," Mirkarimi said.
Sgt. Andraychak added, “Criminals typically think twice about doing the crime in front of somebody.”