Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"The community is starving for additional help. We're not there to hassle anybody. We're there to protect the public, to keep the community safe."

Eric Costanios
Guardian Angels spokesman

Maui gets
Guardian Angels

WAILUKU » A volunteer citizens patrol group founded in New York 25 years ago will help Maui, whose police force is understaffed, said state Rep. Kameo Tanaka.

The Guardian Angels has a chapter of about 30 to 40 members on Oahu and is recruiting volunteers for its citizens patrol on the Valley Isle.

Tanaka (D, West Maui), who was instrumental in getting the group started on Maui, said, "We don't have enough enforcement to go around."

Tanaka said the Guardian Angels have helped to patrol areas of Ewa Beach and Chinatown on Oahu.

He said the Guardian Angels is not a vigilante group and uses "verbal judo" to defuse potential problems.

Tanaka said all group members are searched for weapons before going out on patrols, and they call 911 for police assistance if an arrest needs to be made.

Group spokesman Eric Costanios, a legislative aide to Tanaka, said yesterday a couple of patrols have been done already, mainly in the commercial district of Lahaina town along Front Street.

"The community is starving for additional help. We're not there to hassle anybody," Costanios said. "We're there to protect the public, to keep the community safe."

He said the group, which has several members on Maui, is not the solution, but can be the "second eyes and ears for the police."

Costanios said members receive no pay as Guardian Angels, but work at jobs and have families.

He said the Maui chapter leader, Guillermo Coscarelli, works as a watercraft mechanic on the Valley Isle and helped in the search and cleanup after the collapse of the twin towers in the New York terrorist attacks.

Costanios said all Guardian Angels are subject to background checks for criminal records and must undergo 3 1/2 months of training before becoming full members.

He said the group eventually hopes to make a presentation to the Police Department.

Maui Deputy Police Chief Kekuhaupio Akana said any organized and respected community group that has solid citizen leaders involved in patrols would be an asset to the community, but the department will not be working with the Guardian Angels until it knows the background of individual members.

Akana said his department does background checks of citizens in its police auxiliary program and reviews certain procedures with them.

Anyone interested in joining the Maui Guardian Angels should contact Costanios at 368-2606.

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