The New Orleans Guardian Angels chapter boasts 17 volunteers, ranging in age from teens to 60s, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. With eye-catching, paramilitary-like uniforms of red berets, black fatigues, and thin cotton T-shirts emblazoned with the group’s logo, they strive to be visual deterrents. If unable to defuse a situation, members are taught to step in and make a citizen’s arrest. Supporters call them courageous crime stoppers. Critics call them media-hungry vigilantes; the group’s founder once fabricated at least five accounts of heroism, including thwarting a kidnapping, before admitting the lie. New Orleans Police Department spokesman Lt. Bruce Adams said police welcome the Angels’ assistance “as long as they don’t participate in any vigilante activities.”
“They land often with a big bang, but don’t have the staying power or impact as promised,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “It’s still unclear if there is any substance to their game. There are no studies, few results to show, no evidence. But, hey, if they get citizens involved and put crime control to the forefront, you can’t really complain.” The Rev. Tony Talavera, proprietor of the French Quarter Wedding Chapel, called the Angels, asking them to set up shop in the French Quarter. But after meeting them, Talavera changed his mind. “They won’t be effective,” he said. “They are wasting their resources here. They aren’t even armed. The criminals here are going to laugh at them, then rob them.” Talavera wants Blackhawk Protection Service, a company that employs lethally armed guards, some recently returned from stints in Iraq, to patrol the Quarter.