Monday, August 14, 2006

WABC's Sliwa has filled in for Sean Hannity...

Glenn Beck article in a Seattle newspaper:

Guardian Angels leader visits APCP Sliwa offers his organization's program to deter gang threat

GEMA MAR�A DUARTE Pocono Record WriterAugust 14, 2006
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Curtis Sliwa, founder and head of the Guardian Angels, urged residents of a gated community to take preventive measures against gang violence by using his public safety organization.Although Sliwa cautioned that gang members are joining the exodus from the cities to the suburbs, many of the 60 residents of A Pocono Country Place who attended the Sunday meeting seemed more concerned with problems from idle youth who reside there than the threat of invading gangs."It has been said that the Poconos has become the sixth borough of the city," Sliwa said, during his first visit at APCP, where residents have been debating gang presence in the association and the need for Sliwa's help.

He made his rounds around the Poconos to sample local interest in forming a chapter of his public safety organization. Its only difference from a community crime watch is that volunteer participants of his group can make citizen arrests, he said. Volunteers patrol the streets, take notes of incidents and provide it to the police.After touring APCP, he visited Stroud Mall on Route 611."You don't address a gang problem when it's here in full effect," said Sliwa, who noticed that his audience included two Latin King members. "You prevent it from coming here or from getting worse like in the big cities."Karen White, property manager at APCP, told Sliwa during a press conference outside the main gate of the private community that if it enrolled in the Guardian Angels program the association would be stigmatized as having a gang problem, which she believed it doesn't have. She said disturbances happening behind locked gates are sometimes due to teenagers who have nothing to do or from a domestic disputes, which the association can't get involved with. The board has tried to reach out to the teenage residents in the past, White said, with community activities, but have been unsuccessful in getting them to participate.She doesn't know who invited Sliwa because the board of the directors of APCP wasn't informed of his visit.The board of directors, White told Sliwa, will discuss whether it needs the organization and would keep in contact with him.

He agreed and told White that the Guardian Angels can help APCP with after-school activities that would involve teenagers. He explained the programs are free and volunteer-based. Sliwa said he will make an appointment to meet with the board to make a presentation of those activities and also reach out to local police departments.Sliwa's presence was requested by nearly 20 residents living in private communities worried that street gangs from New York and New Jersey are moving into the Poconos, after the Associated Press reported that Pine Ridge and APCP harbored gang activity in an Aug. 7 story in the Pocono Record. Police in the story said an unknown number of gang members had moved into the Poconos.Guardian Angels have battled gangs, drugs, guns and violence for 27 years nationwide by training community volunteers to patrol neighborhoods and surrounding area that are encountering high crime rates or may be at risk of rising crime.The nonprofit organization covers community safety, professional development for educators, school-based anti-bullying coursework, anti-gang programs in the public school systems and Internet safety. It receives its funding from donations and fundraisers for the group's travels and communication, Sliwa said.The organization trains community volunteers for three months in self-defense, conditioning, certification in CPR and first aid, teaches them the law, Guardian Angels patrol techniques and radio communication.For the program to be implemented, eight to 12 residents must join, Sliwa said.After the 45-minute press conference, board members took Sliwa for a tour of the private community, introducing him to residents, whom he asked for their thoughts on gangs in the community.Resident Dana Payan, a 15-year-old student at Notre Dame High of East Stroudsburg, said "there's no real gang activity here. I've lived here all my life and I haven't had any problems."Sliwa asked Payan if local schools banned certain colors to be worn to school. Payan said they did.

"You wouldn't do that if gangs weren't here," Sliwa replied."There may be gangs but not to the point to have to do this," Payan responded pointing at Sliwa.If communities in the Poconos decide to utilize the Guardian Angels program, the training will be led by Jim Ezzo, chapter leader in Sussex Borough in New Jersey, which was initiated in February 2005."Even if there's no gang action, it doesn't mean not being proactive and vigilant," Ezzo said. "We are trained observers. We are the eyes and ears of the police."Those like Margaret Matthews, who believe the private community is faced with heavy gang activity, welcomed the group's visitation."It's all over," she said, although she hasn't witnessed gang violence. "Gangs are everywhere. Residents have to be aware of how they look, what to look for. There's fear here."When identifying gang members she looks for blue or red on their clothing, she said, and if they aren't wearing those identifiable colors then she won't know whether they are gang members.Matthews, who has been a resident at APCP since 1986 and served in public safety for five years, said the worst she saw during her term was destruction of houses by teens. Angel Surillo, a 26-year-old inactive Latin King member, moved to APCP two months ago from New York to try to change his life in the Poconos as a paint artist and hopefully open his own art shop, he said. He was among the residents on Sunday waiting to hear the founder of the Guardian Angels and willing to provide input to improve life in the community as a start to changing his life style."I haven't seen gang violence," he said, "but the presence is here. I think some young people are trying to belong to something and appear to be gang members. They need something to do."Guardian Angels will visit Wal-Mart in East Stroudsburg Sunday at noon followed by a stop at Pine Ridge in Lehman Township.


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