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Thursday, May 20, 2004



Guardian Angels
to watch over
Honolulu

The security group's leader arrives
to begin a mission in Hawaii


Volunteer Guardian Angels, in their trademark red berets, may soon patrol the streets of Honolulu, carrying handcuffs but no weapons, to try to reduce crime.

The group, which got its start 25 years ago on the subways of New York, announced the start of its program in Hawaii yesterday, but has not decided on its main task. In Los Angeles, the group has targeted recruiting youth who might otherwise join a gang.

"It might seem strange, but young people just want to belong," said Sebastian Metz, the Guardian Angels' regional director for the Western United States. "Some are wavering and don't know what to believe."

Metz, who is in Honolulu to assist with the program's formation, said the group must meet with the police chief and residents before deciding what tasks it will tackle -- such as youth education or patrols.

"I expect that the program in Hawaii needs to be developed by the local people, so that it works here," he said.

The organization, which held a news conference yesterday at the Waikiki Gateway Hotel, has chapters in more than 30 cities worldwide. It insists on a "no weapons, no bias, no drugs" policy, he said.

Volunteers don easily recognizable red berets, white T-shirts emblazoned with "Guardian Angels Patrol" or red jackets so citizens can turn to them for help. Their presence in such distinctive attire can also help deter crime, Metz said.

Former angel Ricardo Garcia, who has lived in Hawaii for 20 years, decided to start the Hawaii chapter.

Garcia, 38, who joined the group in 1982 in Chicago, will again wear the red beret. "I have three daughters, and for them and the kids of Hawaii, I want to make sure they can walk the streets with no fear," said the former Marine.

Chief Lee Donohue said the Honolulu Police Department welcomes community involvement. "We will look forward to meeting this group," he said.

The angels concentrate on crimes that victimize people.

Christopher Quimpo, 25, of Waimanalo said he is drawn to the group because of its community service and hopes to set an example for young children. "Especially the keiki, they really need someone to look up to," he said.

Kailua resident Raymond Manuel, 34, has been issued a red beret, but must still undergo the 3 1/2-month training, which begins Friday, and includes martial arts, law, disaster response and cardio- pulmonary resuscitation.

Manuel said the Guardian Angels will supplement neighborhood watches and will help deter crime.

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