'Guardian Angels' plan for Luton patrols

Bill Rowe said the patrols were the original neighbourhood watch, but with a bit more bite

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A team of "Guardian Angels" are to patrol the streets of Luton following a spate of violent crime in the town.

The volunteer anti-crime organisation wants people to form units to help "vulnerable" people in their own communities.

The group started patrolling in bright red jackets and berets in New York in 1979 following police cutbacks.

A Bedfordshire Police spokesman said the force had concerns about the group's arrival.

The Guardian Angels said their aim was to provide "peaceful solutions" to safeguard neighbourhoods, schools and cyberspace from bullying, gangs and violence. It believes its presence deters criminals.

Guardian Angels

New York Guardian Angel
  • Formed in the Bronx in New York in 1979 by Curtis Sliwa
  • The McDonald's night manager formed a voluntary, weapon-free patrol of 13 to take the subways, the streets and the neighbourhood back from crime
  • Their distinctive red berets are now a worldwide icon for safety
  • More than 130 "chapters" have been created worldwide

The group's formation was a response to New York's financial crisis which led to transport police not being available on the subways overnight.

Andreas Schoyen, from Guardian Angels UK, said they had "filled in a vacuum" at that time.

"There was basically a free-for-all if you were a mugger, rapist or gangster wanting to inflict violence," he said.

'Bit more bite'

Since then, the group has expanded its operations to cities around the world.

In London, units known as chapters patrol the underground, buses and streets.

Armed police started patrolling housing estates in Luton in May as a response to 10 shootings in the town this year.

Bill Rowe, who has been appointed to run the local chapter, said he thought there was "an opening" in the town and was "testing the water" to see if it was wanted.

"It's the original neighbourhood watch, but with a bit more bite - it's about looking out for people," he said.

"There have been some nasty cases recently but [being a Guardian Angel] is not about being a policeman.

"It's about looking after your community, there are vulnerable people out there you can help."

Ch supt Mark Turner said Bedfordshire Police already enjoyed some "really good community relations".

"I'd be really guarded about other people coming into Luton to try to intervene in any way shape or form," he said.

"I think it's important that, as the police, we do the policing and we work very closely with the local authorities and other recognised agencies to deliver community safety."

Mr Rowe said the group was ideally looking for six people units to work in the area where they lived and any one interested should contact him through the website.

Map: Luton shootings
Key Date Location What happened?

1

30 January

Junction of Wellington Street and Russell Street

Woman, 36, sitting in a car with her partner, suffers shrapnel wounds to her hand after shots fired

2

3 February

Arrow Close, Marsh Farm

Man suffers leg injuries in a shooting. Three suspects spotted riding away on bikes

3

9 April

Brunel Road, Lewsey Farm

Paul Foster, 46, shot dead outside a house

4

16 April

Burnham Road, Stopsley

Shots fired at a house

5

24 April

St Michael's Crescent

Shots fired at a house

6

30 April

Tudor Road

Man, 33, shot in the leg by two men on a dark blue motorbike

7

5 May

Culverhouse Road

Motorcyclist fires two shots at a BMW

8

7 May

Kirby Drive

Shots fired during attempted robbery at Premier News

9

11 May

Thricknells Close, Marsh Farm

Boy, 16, shot in the back in "targeted" attack

10

20 May

Junction of Leicester Rd and Dunstable Rd, Luton

Man, 27, shot in the leg after a car crash

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