Not all guardian angels come with wings. Some wear red berets and red sateen jackets, and that’s the kind Codye Jumping Wolf wants to see on Missoula’s streets.
He’s concerned by recent assaults downtown, and he thinks a local chapter of the Alliance of Guardian Angels would cut down on crime.
The Alliance of Guardian Angels, founded by Curtis Sliwa in New York City in 1979, is a nonprofit network of chapters that recruit volunteer patrols to dissuade and interrupt crimes.
Sliwa, a fed-up McDonald’s manager who originally organized 13 people to patrol the Bronx, says the Alliance has since evolved into 60 groups. Chapters can be found in South Africa, Japan and Brazil, as well as in dozens of cities across the United States. And while most chapters turn up in large cities, Sliwa says many new groups are in cities with populations of under 100,000.
Jumping Wolf, a retired private investigator and martial artist, helped found a chapter in Tampa, Fla., in 1988. He moved to Missoula in 2003 “to get away from the problems, the crime and the riff-raff in Florida.” While he doesn’t think Missoula has big-city problems yet (“Here you don’t have street-corner crack dealers”), he worries about crime worsening, and he’s testing local response to the idea.
The Missoula Police Department’s Cpt. Dick Lewis says Missoula doesn’t need a citizen crime patrol.
“Missoula is not a New York or a Chicago or an L.A.,” he says, adding that police have enough resources, and most crimes are getting solved.
Beyond that, Lewis says, the department has a lot of questions about how the Angels would work. If Sliwa pursues the possibility of a chapter, which he says he would do if he hears a ground swell of support from residents, Lewis says the department would be happy to sit down and learn about it.
Sliwa says he takes the possibility of a new chapter seriously. Should Missoula pursue it, the Alliance would conduct three months of volunteer training. And, of course, red berets would be ordered.
“If we make an effort, we expect to see results,” Sliwa says.