For the past six months, volunteers have been patrolling high-crime areas in the Omaha metro area in an effort to reduce crime. Curtis Sliwa is one of the founders of the Guardian Angels. He says they are not vigilantes, but there are some requirements for those wanting to join.
"You’ve gotta’ be certified in C-P-R and first aid," Sliwa says. "You have to know the laws, particularly if they apply to the state of Nebraska and Iowa because remember, we’re going back and forth between Omaha and Council Bluffs." Sliwa says part of the plan is to get out on the streets and meet the gang members themselves.
He says, "You go out there and you start kicking it with the gang bangers because your goal is to try to recruit gang members away from the gang." Sliwa says one of the responsibilities of the Guardian Angels is to look for recruits in odd places.
"They are working nine to five. They’ll actually work hard. They’ll show up. They’ll be early. But, then the moment the clock strikes five, then all of a sudden they are hanging with their homies, it is almost like they have changed personality," he says. Sliva says gang violence is definitely responsible for the recent spike in gun-related crimes in the Omaha metro area.
He says they are also seeing a spike in gang-related activity in Cedar Rapids, so the Guardian Angels are considering establishing a chapter there to help serve as the eyes and ears for the police. The Guardian Angels started in 1979 in New York City and now there are more than 100 chapters across the country.