The Guardian Angels, the swashbuckling New York group that got its start patrolling the streets and subways of the Big Apple, say they're coming to Silver Spring.
"There's no doubt we're going to go in there. What we're waiting to do now is assess public support," said Prince of the Subways and chief Guardian Curtis Sliwa, speaking in pure Brooklynese from his post at a phone booth in New Orleans.
Sliwa was visiting the city of jazz last week to expand his now 32-city empire. While he was doing that, other Angels were winging around the downtown area of Silver Spring asking retailers and residents to sign petitions if they would support establishing a chapter in their area.
Top Angels will not contact police or Chamber of Commerce representatives until the petition results are in, but Baltimore leader Ike Jackson says the prospects look good for putting Angels to work in Montgomery County's highest crime area. He expects to "solidify a headquarters" sometime within the next week and a half and have the volunteer Angels guarding Metro stops and commercial areas in about two months.
Silver Spring recruits will undergo a two-month training period before patrolling the commercial areas in groups of eight to 10. They will not carry weapons and must be in school or have a job. Each is trained in CPR and first aid.
Earlier this summer, 26-year-old Sliwa suffered a major rebuke when District of Columbia police officials opposed his attempts to set up shop. This time, after receiving letters from several Silver Spring residents, Sliwa said he decided to circulate petitions before mobilizing his forces.
A county police spokesman opted for Purgatory when told about the Angels' impending arrival. "If and when that occurs, we will address it then," said police spokesman Phillip Caswell.
Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bea Chainey was slightly more enthusiastic. "If they're actually here for the good of the area and not glory seekers, then I think they will probably give comfort to some," she said. "But then I guess they also could alarm some people."