Subway attack causes Guardian Angels to act

March 31, 2008 9:15:34 PM PDT
Last week's attack on the Market-Frankford line has prompted the appearance of the Guardian Angels. Members of the Guardian Angels' New York City branch are assisting members of the Philadelphia branch in patrolling the subways during what they call the fright zone, between 1:00 and 5:00 pm, the time when commuters say is the scariest time down on the subway.

Throughout the afternoon, members of the red-beret wearing Guardian Angels stood watch on SEPTA's heaviest subway routes on the Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines.

"The goal is to keep the people safe and to show the city that we care," Oscar Centeno said.

The volunteer group consists mostly of younger people including college students, a manager of a fast food restaurant, and a single mother of two young children out on patrol.

"We're not here to do the police's job, but we're here to assist them," Centeno said.

The group began its patrols this weekend in the wake of the deadly attack against subway commuter Sean Conroy, allegedly at the hands of four Simon Gratz high school students.

One of them, a 16-year-old tenth grader, was arrested almost immediately, but the other three have remained illusive.

Police theorize they possibly may have skipped town. Conroy was the manager of the Starbucks in the Center City Marriott. It remains closed until Wednesday to allow fellow workers to attend his viewing and funeral service.

Meanwhile, the Guardian Angels say if they see crime, they will immediately contact police

"If we have to do a citizen arrest, we'll do it, because we are trained to do a citizen arrest, too," Centeno said. Commuters who spoke to Action News gave the group high fives and most welcome their presence.

"I think it's great. I think it's absolutely wonderful. I hope they don't do anything rash, but I think it's very nice to have the extra protection," Amy Polk said.

However, at least one group, members of the Anti-Drug, Anti-Violence Network frowned on the Guardian Angels presence on the subway.

"We don't need out-of-towners coming here making false promises saying they're going to make citizens arrests and they come here, do a song and dance for the cameras and leave," Greg Bucceroni said.

The Guardian Angels say their presence has caused renewed interest in the group with people wanting to join the volunteer effort. Anyone who would like to join can contact the group at 215-667-0034.