Guardian Angels: New York citizen crime-fighters tackle Covid-19 crisis

Members of the Guardian Angels in New York City on May 7, 2020.
Members of the Guardian Angels in New York City on May 7, 2020. © AFP / FRANCE 24

The Guardian Angels, a volunteer citizen crime-fighting organisation, have been patrolling the streets of New York City for four decades. But with the city still emerging from the grip of the Covid-19 crisis, they say they are busier than ever amid a spike in burglaries.


New York has been hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic with around 20,000 deaths. Although overall crime has fallen in the city in recent weeks, burglaries soared 169 percent in April, with thieves targeting shuttered businesses.

“Our services have never been more in need then now during this pandemic of coronavirus, because there's lawlessness, breaking into stores, robberies, thuggery, prisoners are being released from the jails because of coronavirus. And there are just not enough police,” Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, whose members are trained to carry out citizens’ arrests on suspected wrongdoers, told AFP.

But it is not just violent crime the group is battling.  It is also helping to make sure the city’s most vulnerable are not forgotten amid the pandemic.

"Homelessness and the EDPs that are out there, the emotionally disturbed people, that is now a focus,” said volunteer Arnaldo Salinas.

“We feed them. We give them you know, sanitary wipes so they can wipe their hands. We try and make their life at least a little bit more comfortable.”

The Guardian Angels were founded in New York in 1979, at a time when the city was notorious for its high crime rate and were initially opposed by authorities who labelled them dangerous vigilantes.

But in recent years they have been given public backing by NYC officials and the group now has 5,000 members in 130 cities across 13 different countries.

Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning

Take international news everywhere with you! Download the France 24 app