Known for their red berets and martial arts skills, the
got their start 25 years ago cleaning up the streets of New York. Now the group is taking aim at the streets of Weldon.
During a Guardian Angels training session, Weldon residents are learning how to to be a citizen force. It is a neighborhood watch that is not afraid to get physical if necessary.
Bill Eleczko is starting a local chapter of the crime-fighting group to bring down a drug trade fueled by Interstate 95.
"With that comes break-ins and other kinds of crime. It makes people afraid to walk the streets in the evenings and we want to try to clean that up," Eleczko said.
Eleczko wants drug dealers to see the red berets and think twice about coming to town. The New Jersey native, remembers the Guardian Angels cleaning up the streets of New York City.
Weldon police Chief Greg Parker remembers, too. He said it was the militant reputation of the group that worried him when he first heard the Guardian Angels were coming to town.
"Part of that is I haven't heard much about Guardian Angels since they started back in the '70s, when you heard about some of the more vigilante things they may have done," Parker said.
Frank Lee, the east coast director for the Guardian Angels, said the nonprofit is designed to help police, not to take over for them.
"We're not police officers," Lee said. "We're just concerned citizens who are willing to lend a helping hand and extra eyes and ears."
Parker sat in on a training session and knows the local people getting involved. He said he is no confident that having a few Guardian Angels around will not hurt. It might just help.
"Somebody that says, 'I'm watching you,' -- a lot of times will be all that it takes to cause that person to stop doing what they're doing and move on," he said.
The crime-fighting group will not hit the streets right away. They will get three months of training, which includes martial arts, first aid, and the basics of local laws.
With a population of only 1400, Weldon, with a population of 1,400, is the smallest town with a Guardian Angels group. The next smallest is Green Bay, Wisconsin with more than 100,0000 people.
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