The Guardian Angels are returning to Buffalo. But unlike the last time they were here in the 1980s, they're being welcomed.
The volunteer safety patrol group began walking through Cazenovia Park yesterday at the invitation of a local community activist. Founder Curtis Sliwa says the Guardian Angels have a better relationship with police agencies now than when the group was formed in 1979.
"Could we ourselves become violators and abridge someone's rights? Yes. But there are checks and balances. We're mere citizens. We have no special powers. We could get arrested like anyone else. Then, the organization itself could be sued. So, the check and balances are in place," Sliwa said.
Back in the 1980s, then Mayor James Griffin sent a message that the Guardian Angels were not welcome in Buffalo.
"They met me at the Greyhound Bus Station with a one-way ticket back to New York City," Sliwa said. "They wanted no part of it.
"Now, police departments want community involvement. They use the Guardian Angels to facilitate that, especially among young people."
Guardian Angels members go through three months of training, including basic self defense and conditioning. They also learn CPR and first aid and are taught how to legally make a citizens arrest.
Sliwa spent Saturday recruiting new members to expand patrols of South Buffalo neighborhoods.