The Inland Empire chapter of the Guardian Angels is a 501c3 non-profit organization, dedicated to improving the communities we live in.
The year is 1979. There is an oil shortage and the economy is in a fullblown recession. In November, 53 Americans would be held hostage by Iran. State and city budgets across the country are being slashed. For New York City it’s Murphy’s Law on speed. Buildings are being burned down for insurance, and the City cannot afford to provide many services including cleaning up parks and streets and providing adequate police protection. When the movie “The Warriors” came out in 1979, it could have been mistaken for a documentary about New York gangs. When “Escape from New York” came out in 1981 many people already thought New York City was a brutal penal colony in a state of anarchy. A night manager of a fast food franchise name Curtis Sliwa had enough of it just like every other New Yorker. Unlike most New Yorkers, however, he did something about it. He first organized coworkers and friends to clean up the streets around his workplace, then the neighborhood, and then whole parts of the city. They called themselves the Rock Brigade. He then started cleaning up the subways, replacing brooms with berets. People forget that back in 1979, law enforcement was the domain of paid government workers. Even private security was frowned upon. Today, there are more private security officers than police officers. Many people viewed the Guardian Angels as some sort of vigilante group. Many City officials, already embarrassed by their poor services, viewed the Guardian Angels as a sore reminder of their own shortcomings. But 1979 was ripe for the Guardian Angels. The vast majority of Americans were sick and tired of “Uzi toting, dopesmoking, freakazoid mutants” ruling the night, terrorizing neighborhoods, and claiming the streets as their turf. Soon the Guardian Angels were opening chapters nationwide and eventually in Europe, Australia, Asia, and South America. At the same time, police departments and city governments were also beginning to grasp the concept of community oriented policing. They soon realized that citizens could do a lot more for their country. Over the years, the Guardian Angels have become a lot less controversial and a lot more welcomed by police departments and City officials. We are now viewed more as an established community resource and an invaluable link to the community for elected officials. Citizen participation and involvement in government affairs is now the norm, and there is no doubt the Guardian Angels bore much of the burden, breaking down those walls. The Guardian Angels is also a lot more than a worldwide network of volunteers. Curtis Sliwa created an organization based upon a core of powerful and profound social ideals and principles. He challenged Americans, of all people, to replace the “I” and “me” mentality with the “us” and “we.” He reintroduced Americans to the ideals of social responsibility and selfless service. These principles represent the soul of this organization, distinguishing it as not only a mechanism of community service but also one of social advancement and individual empowerment.