What was the deal with the Guardian Angels?

September 28, 2008 at 11:10 pm Leave a comment

Some of you might recall the publicity surrounding the visit of the Vancouver chapter of the Guardian Angels to Victoria in May, 2007. It attracted a fair amount of media attention and the usual suspects (including myself) were asked our opinion. A few of us on the DRA Board met with a couple of the members who were visiting Victoria offering their support if citizens wished to organize a local chapter.

They were very clear in stating that they were not interested in imposing a chapter, only facilitating its creation. They also made it clear that organizing a chapter was a labour-intensive process. In order to have a sustainable group, a critical mass of volunteers was necessary in order to maintain sufficient shift strength, and this was a challenge considering the bulk of the Angels’ patrolling was done in the late night hours.

After some initial enthusiasm, the initiative died out when few volunteers bothered to make the time commitment necessary. There was also grumbling from some quarters that the Angels’ presence on Victoria’s streets smacked of American-style vigilanteism. This was an unfair accusation but there was concern from some of the more pessimistic observers that the volunteers could upset the delicate social balance that bonds Victoria’s street community. Already, it was acknowleged that new street people, recently arrived from Vancouver, were causing upset in the local community with aggressive drug pushing and turf wars. Some felt the Angels would alleviate problems, some felt they would exacerbate them.

Personnally, I told the media that the primary cause of after-hours violence was not the street community, but rather the drunken bar crowd, and that the Angels might deter some of the vandalism that they cause Downtown.

In the end, I was impressed with the Guardian Angels’ representatives and their approach to urban safety. It was a pleasure talking to them and they seemed to have a realistic view of street issues and possessed the toughness and compassion that has earned them respect in many of the cities they patrol. They may have been a beneficial presence in Downtown Victoria and one day their services may be required and local citizens may respond to the call. Until then, we will have to use other means to ensure street safety for all people.

The CBC report can be read here; the Times Colonist article is here (.pdf).

Entry filed under: media, social issues.

Updated: My comments on the late night eatery controversy Vancouver needs a new square, too

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