Like it or not, the Guardian Angels are digging in their heels after months of outreach in Riverhead and Greenport.
The crimson-clad community-watchers say they’ve been patrolling once or twice a week in Greenport since November and in Riverhead since May. And while official statistics are unavailable, some are optimistic that their efforts to curb gang violence in Hispanic communities are working.
“It’s statistically too early to tell how they’ve made a difference, but I know they’ve made a difference just based on what I’ve heard from some of the shopkeepers along Railroad Avenue,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter.
For residents, the organization has, at the very least, been fairly visible. Of close to 50 people interviewed in Riverhead and Greenport, nearly three-quarters indicated they’d had seen a beret-wearing watchman at least once in recent months.
In fact, 21 people said they’ve seen the Angels two or more times — most often on weekends and in the late evening.
In Riverhead, the percentage of people surveyed who have seen Guardian Angels is lower, but that could be due to logistics: the Angels have only been running patrols there for two months, compared to eight months in Greenport, and they concentrate almost exclusively on the area around Riverhead’s railroad station.
The group’s success around the train tracks is particularly difficult to determine. Most businesses and residents interviewed were terse and did not want to give their names, and several did not speak English well enough to discuss the Guardian Angels with a reporter.
On Railroad Avenue, two businesses reported seeing the Angels, but two others had not. A bartender at the Loose Caboose Pub said she saw them only when they first arrived to make a formal show of being in Riverhead.
“I don’t think they’re necessary,” she said. “The police can handle it.”