Members of the Guardian Angels, a non-profit volunteer-based group that patrol high-crime communities, held a community meeting at Arcade Creek Park on Saturday afternoon, where they discussed a plan with area residents to patrol the Arcade Creek Trail and emphasised their role in reducing crime.
“We are not a vigilante group,” said Sean Rodgers, the assistant regional director of the Guardian Angels. “We empower the community to stand up and fight back against crime.”
Modesto and Stockton chapter members of the The Guardian Angels invited community members to the open meeting to discuss patrolling the nearby neighborhoods and the Arcade Creek Trail, which forms a border to American River College and has been the scene of numerous crimes this year.
The organization was notified of the trail and its high crime rate by a member of the community, who sent an email to the Guardian Angels seeking “outside help,” according to Rodgers, who added that the Sacramento chapter will soon take over the patrols.
Rodgers explained the purpose of the Guardian Angels to the community members in attendance, repeatedly stating that they are not a vigilante group and only utilize the authority granted to every citizen.
“We’re just like you, or anyone else here, we have the authority to make a citizens arrest. Everyone of you have that authority to do it,” he said. “We don’t just go handcuffing people and ask questions later. We don’t do any of that. What we do is observe and report, like neighborhood watch does.”
Sgt. Mike Olson of the Los Rios Police Department attended the meeting, and has been working with the Guardian Angels to coordinate patrols of the trail by the campus.
Olson said that he knew little of the Guardian Angels and had never worked with them before, but agreed with their message of community involvement and situational awareness.
“They’re not there to solve the whole problem, they’re there to be a part of the solution, along with the community,” Olson said.
Olson believes that community involvement, encompassing residents, students, the police and the Guardian Angels, is necessary to shed light on the situation and address crime on the trail.
“I firmly believe that anytime the community gets involved and people start looking and paying attention, that it makes a positive change.”
Michael Joseph, the leader of the Modesto Chapter, said that they would begin by studying the surrounding area in order to best combat the crime.
“We haven’t really seen anything yet. We have to go out there and kind of look around and see what we’re going to find and what to expect and kind of study it a little bit,” Joseph said. “That’s what we’re going to do tonight. We don’t know what’s out there right now. Once we see, we can kind of examine it and see what we have to do.”
Rodgers went on to explain that the organization has targeted trails before, as they are often high-crime areas.
“Trails are not safe,” he said.
The Guardian Angels asked the community members gathered where they would like to see patrols begin — the overwhelming response was “from here to AR.”
The first patrol began immediately after the meeting. Shortly after the patrol, Rodgers said that they had evaluated the situation and would “concentrate on the trail near the college.”
“I can imagine being a college student … I can understand the concern,” Rodgers said. “The thing is, don’t go there if you’re going to be by yourself. Until we can really get a handle on things. Really, just don’t go there.”
Rodgers added that the organization is in need of volunteers, and that interested applicants can contact the Guardian Angels at 1-800-515-0616.