Would-robbers better beware of San Francisco Guardian Angels after street crimes thwarted

Courtesy PhotoThe Guardian Angels’ San Francisco chapter has 18 crime-fighting members that have helped stop at least two crimes in the last week.

Courtesy PhotoThe Guardian Angels’ San Francisco chapter has 18 crime-fighting members that have helped stop at least two crimes in the last week.

The Guardian Angels are on a roll.

Twice last week, according to police, members of the beret-wearing troop that helps police fight crime in The City came to the aid of a robbery victim.

The latest rescue Wednesday in the Tenderloin resulted in an arrest, according to police.

About 7:20 p.m., Officer Gordon Shyy said, a group of Guardian Angels were patrolling the Tenderloin when they heard screaming. An iPhone had been swiped from a woman at Golden Gate Avenue and Market Street, Shyy said.

The four Guardian Angels reportedly caught up to the suspect, surrounded her and then announced they were making a citizen’s arrest. The suspect, later identified as 18-year-old Sondra Butler of Newark, denied taking the phone.

“But she was holding the victim’s phone in her hand,” said Freddy Batres, coordinator of the Angels’ San Francisco chapter.

Butler was arrested on suspicion of theft after the Guardian Angels called police. The phone was returned to the victim. The Angels then walked the victim and her friend to their destination.

“We’re citizens and we don’t want to see this stuff where we live,” one of the Angels said he told Butler.

Five days before that incident, the Guardian Angels were credited with helping a 21-year-old man in the Mission district who was being beaten by robbers during another cellphone theft.

The group, a nonprofit that has 18 members in its San Francisco chapter, says its tactic is to prevent crime by acting as extra eyes and ears for police, especially in high-crime areas. Batres said the Angels are not vigilantes, but citizen activists.

“When we see drug-dealing, we just stop in front of them,” said Batres, a reformed Los Angeles gang member who works in the roofing business. “And the dealers start saying lots of things to us. We just stand there.”

The Guardian Angels exist mainly to deter criminals from committing crimes, but Batres calls coming face-to-face with an assault or robbery suspect “ending up in the right place at the right time.”

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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