The Guardian Angels, street patrols by members of the public which originated in the United States, have now arrived in Barcelona. The group's objective, they say, is to discourage crime and help authorities make the city more safe.
The group made its first patrol on 31st August; the chapter's five members have so far covered areas like the Raval neighbourhood and line 1 of the metro.
The long arm of the law pic.twitter.com/AFLumpTu14— Sarge (@Mikebikeanddad) September 7, 2019
Mike Henstridge, the founder of the Barcelona group, has said that so far they have been making contacts with the community and giving free self-defence classes. When out officially, they are easy to recognise in their uniforms of a white t-shirt and red beret.
We are all volunteers, unarmed and apolitical, and are freely giving our own time, not only to make the city safer, by visible preventative patrolling, but also work in the community on projects that will strengthen it and make people more cohesive, and valued.— Sarge (@Mikebikeanddad) September 17, 2019
The new group has sparked concern from some police unions and human rights bodies, like Irídia. Speaking on El matí de Barcelona on Betevé, spokesperson for the Mossos SAP-Fepol union Imma Viudes "completely" rejected the existence of such groups comprised of members of the public.
"Barcelona isn't the Bronx", Viudes said, referring to the New York neighbourhood where the Guardian Angels were created in the 1970s. For his part, lawyer from Irídia Andrés García-Berrio opposed members of the public wanting to take justice into their own hands.
The Guardian Angels were created in New York in the 1979 by residents angry with the situation with crime in the Bronx. They promoted programmes to regenerate public spaces and to patrol the streets to discourage crime. There are currently chapters in some 15 countries and 140 cities.