Guardian Angels tuck Port St. Lucie under their wings to offset police layoffsSeptember 14th, 2010 by TCPalm.com
PORT ST. LUCIE — With the layoffs of 24 Port St. Lucie police officers looming, the Guardian Angels of the Treasure Coast are beefing up patrol routes across city streets.
Port St. Lucie Police Chief Donald Shinnamon announced that 24 police officers and three civilian employees would be laid off Sept. 24. The layoffs will mean 89 jobs have been lost within the department since 2008. The latest round of layoffs are part of a plan to cut $1.9 million from the police budget.
The local chapter of the international citizen crime-fighting group is best known for patrolling high crime areas in Fort Pierce. Organizers with the group said the increase in security stems from calls from concerned residents.
“I’ve been getting a lot of calls from panicked residents,” said Steve Horton, 60, president of the Treasure Coast Guardian Angels. “People are worried that because of the layoffs, crime will increase.”
The Angels spent close to 15 hours last weekend patrolling as much of the city as they could from Tradition to U.S. 1. The four Angels — wearing their trademark red berets, black paratrooper pants and combat boots — canvassed parking lots, neighborhoods and weekend events on foot and by car.
The group members, who carry only a baton and a pair of shiny handcuffs, aim to act as a deterrent to crime, but are trained in martial arts should they encounter a crime in progress. The goal is to subdue a suspect within legal limits as they wait for law enforcement to arrive at the scene.
Horton estimates the Treasure Coast group has prevented hundreds of crimes in its seven years in the area.
“We’ve gotten nothing but praise from local law enforcement and residents,” said Horton who’s been an Angel on the Treasure Coast and in the Palm Beaches for the past 21 years. “Kids look up to us like we’re superheroes.”
Although Horton said he doesn’t have any reason to believe there is a serious crime problem in Port St. Lucie, he still wants to make sure problems don’t arise.
“We want to give the residents a sense of security knowing the Guardians are patrolling the streets,” Horton said.
Port St. Lucie homeowner Marcia Boroughf said she can sleep a little easier knowing the Angels are out on the streets.
“With the layoffs, people are worried and I’m worried,” she said. “I definitely think the Guardian Angels are a force for good.”
Tom Nichols, spokesman for the Port St. Lucie Police Department, said it’s too early to tell if crime will increase because of the layoffs. But he said the department’s road patrol will remain fully staffed day and night.
“I would say that (the Guardian Angels) can act as a deterrent for those who may anticipate committing a crime,” Nichols said. “They will also be an extra set of eyes for the department.”
FOR MORE INFO
The Treasure Coast Guardian Angels chapter has eight members and is always looking for new recruits.
All members serve on a volunteer basis.
Anyone who is interested should call (772) 224-0706.