The Guardian Angels is a non-profit, international, volunteer organization of unarmed citizen crime patrollers. The Guardian Angels organization was founded February 13, 1979 in New York City by Curtis Sliwa and has chapters in 15 countries (in 144 cities) around the world.
Sliwa originally created the organization to combat widespread violence and crime on the New York City subways. The organization originally trained members to make citizen’s arrests for violent crimes. Today, they often detain criminals instead of making citizen's arrests. The organization patrols the streets and neighborhoods but also provides education programs and workshops for schools and businesses.
The original and main Guardian Angels activity is "Safety Patrol" in which members walk the streets or ride transit. Guardian Angels must be in uniform to represent the organization. They can be identified by their red berets and red jackets or white t-shirts with the Guardian Angels logo of an eye inside a shield with wings. Chapters operate similar to franchise networks supporting one another regionally under standard rules, regulations, and training. The Guardian Angels state that they are an equal opportunity organization that encourages diversity.
The organization accepts volunteers who do not have a recent or serious criminal record and are not members of a gang or racial hate group. In order to join the Safety Patrol program, members must be at least 16 years old. Younger members are allowed to participate in youth programs. Safety Patrol members are prohibited from carrying weapons and are physically searched before patrolling. They are trained in basic first aid, CPR, law, conflict resolution, communication, and basic martial arts. Members are paired up and follow the directions of a Patrol Leader. Members, however, are allowed to do whatever they feel is lawful and necessary in case their lives, or the lives of other citizens, are endangered or fear serious personal injury.
The Guardian Angels have also begun to include youth programs, teacher programs, disaster response, an Internet safety program called the CyberAngels, self-defense courses, as well as community outreach addressing issues beyond crime.