By Arielle Dollinger
Having announced before the Oct. 21 Huntington Town Board meeting that they would return to Huntington Station, the Guardian Angels are back.
Weeks after the murder of 18-year-old Walt Whitman High School senior Maggie Rosales, “the community is in fear,” said Curtis Sliwa, founder of the global citizen patrol group.
The Guardian Angels have been visiting Huntington Station – the “epicenter of gang activity,” as Sliwa called it – in an attempt to develop relationships with area residents.
“You have to gain the trust of the people who live there, because they’re going to help resolve the problem; they just don’t know it now,” he said.
Flyers with contact information and a graphic of wings protruding from an eye are on telephone poles on Lynch Street – the street on which Rosales was found lifeless and face-down after she was stabbed to death on Oct. 12 – in an effort to recruit locals.
Those in the red berets are trying to come to Huntington Station two full days each week, Sliwa said – one weekday to make friends and recruit helpers, one weekend day to patrol.
Rosales’ unsolved murder “really caused people to focus,” he said, because it meant an added name to the list of unsolved recent murders in the area.
Daniel Carbajal, 25, was shot and killed outside a Huntington Station residence in July; Luis Ramos-Rodriguez, 38, was stabbed to death outside of a Huntington Station restaurant; the body of Sarah Strobel, 23, was found in the woods of Froehlich Farm preserve last October.
In 2010, the Guardian Angels came to Huntington Station to combat violence that led to the closing of the Jack Abrams School. Though the Angels had been patrolling on what Sliwa said was “a regular basis,” many eventually thought that the problem had been solved, he said.
According to town spokesman A.J. Carter, the Town of Huntington encourages teamwork in solving Huntington Station’s current problems.
“We encourage the Guardian Angels to work with the Suffolk County police department as we are in a coordinated effort in Huntington Station,” Carter said.
Meanwhile, some residents, Sliwa said, are reluctant to join the Angels because they fear gang retaliation, deportation, or have fallen into what Sliwa said is an aspect of American culture.
“Americans have this habit of saying ‘It’s none of my business,’” he said.
Resident Jim McGoldrick, who lives on the street where Rosales’ body was found, said yesterday that he is glad the Guardian Angels are back, but is “disgusted” by what it took to get help.
“I think things are really bad when you have to start getting outsiders to come in to help us,” he said. “It’s not a good reflection on the community, and it’s definitely not a good reflection on the Suffolk County Police Department.”
A community concern right now, he said, is that the increased patrols and outside assistance are temporary. Residents want to know that the “status quo” will be maintained.
According to Sliwa, Huntington Station’s problems involve gangs.
Guardian Angel Benjamin Garcia joined the organization in 1986.
“You see what’s happening in Huntington Station with the gangs, right?” asked Garcia, who grew up in East Harlem. “If I would’ve not joined the Guardian Angels when I did, I would’ve been part of that problem right there.”
Instead of joining a gang, Garcia decided instead to don a red beret.
When Garcia and the Angels came back to Huntington Station this month, they saw some of the area’s gang members, he said.
“They were not too happy to see us in that area, but it doesn’t matter,” he said.
For information about joining the Guardian Angels, visit guardianangels.org or call 347-942-2886.