The Angels stood their ground, and the panhandlers near the Riverhead train station “scattered.”
So said Benjamin Garcia, the patrol director for the NYC Guardian Angels, an anti-crime group that took to the downtown area for patrols Wednesday afternoon into the night.
“You had people hanging out at the station, standing in front of the grocery store asking for money,” Mr. Garcia said Thursday morning. “The people who were hanging out, they weren’t happy to see us. So that’s their tough luck.
“They wanted to know, why are you here?” he continued. “I said we’re here to make everybody safe. And once they saw I wasn’t moving for nothing, that’s when everybody scattered.”
Mr. Garcia was joined by one other Guardian Angel when patrols started at 1 p.m. on Railroad Avenue. Two more Angels who came west from Greenport joined the crew at 4 p.m. They all patrolled until about 10 p.m, Mr. Garcia said.
During that time they were also greeted by a Riverhead Town police officer who stopped her patrol car to come and say hello.
“She was very happy to see us,” he said.
The group has been welcomed to town by Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and Police Chief David Hegermiller, though some other Town Board members have expressed reservations.
The Riverhead Business Improvement District recently came out against the Angels in Riverhead, saying the patrols might create a perception of lawlessness that doesn’t really exist.
But on Wednesday, aside from the what Mr. Garcia described as people just hanging out bother people for money, most passersby and the owners and employees of the Hispanic businesses, where the Angels did the bulk of their patrols, seemed happy to see them as they walked around, handing out informational flyers to recruit new members.
Anyone interested in joining the Guardian Angels can call (347) 942-2886.
Caption: Benjamin Garcia shakes hands with a Riverhead police officer on Griffing Avenue.