When Guardian Angels Came To Town

Curtis Sliwa
They were here more than 20 years ago,

Ten hours before West Side residents marched against violence one week after the shooting of a three-year-old girl, Jim “Sonny” Fox, that rascally Black Rocker who’s like a kid with matches and gasoline when it comes to fanning city issues, telephoned Mayor Bill Finch and Police Chief Joe Gaudett who were guests on WICC’s Monday morning radio chat. Fox asked them the kind of question few mayors and police chiefs want to hear: is it time to bring back the citizen patrol group The Guardian Angels to Bridgeport? Answer: no way … block watches are part of the solution but by local neighborhood folks in conjunction with local police.

Chief Gaudett remembers as a young officer that crime in the city was at its worst in the late 1980s when a murder a week and more presented a shoot-em-up nightmare with drug gangs running wild in the neighborhoods. The inner city was a war zone.

Joe Ganim, a 29-year-old mayoral candidate in 1989, ballyhooed the arrival of Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels. They set up shop for a time in the city with a benign neglect from most of the establishment. Still, the presence of the Angels for residents frustrated by the violent crime provided some comfort whether real or imagined.

Joe would be elected mayor in 1991 on the promise to hire 100 new police officers in his first term. The city’s law enforcement staffing levels had bottomed out due to retirements and so little money to replenish the ranks as the city’s budget blew up. Ganim’s first budget financed new classes of police recruits. He raised taxes that first year to finance the cop hiring. The residents bought in.

By the mid 1990s the work of local, state and federal law enforcement took out key leaders of the drug gangs. The economy improved and the city saw its violent crime rate fall dramatically.

The violent crime surge in the city is not nearly what it was 20 years ago, but if the trend continues and residents question law enforcement’s response officials will be answering more questions about the Guardian Angels. Just ask Sonny Fox.



  1. I’ve been thinking about that. The level of gang violence is escalating here. It has swollen to the point it is spilling into the city’s other neighborhoods. No one wants to live in a place where we can only hope the local police department does something about the problem. We have a right, as residents, to EXPECT it of them.

  2. “Joe Ganim, a 29-year-old mayoral candidate in 1989 …”
    Ganim was a mayoral candidate for two years?

    “Ganim’s first budget financed new classes of police recruits. He raised taxes that first year to finance the cop hiring.”

    Wasn’t that budget put together by the Financial Review Board? I heard the Greenmaldi stuff causes one to forget things.

    1. Joel, the financial review board did not put the budget together. They just made sure the expenditures did not exceed the revenues. Joe Ganim was working with a limited amount of money but he still found a way to bring on the extra cops. Wasn’t Sweeney the police chief back then?

      1. The financial review board made sure the revenue exceeded expenditures. By 2001 there was $51 million in the rainy day fund. Then in 2003 Ganim is sent to prison and the pillage of the rainy day fund started under Fabs and Andres Ayala as Council president.

  3. I was trying to get a K9 to come to our school for an after-hours activity. I called every listed number for the Bpt police, and nobody picked up the phone. I finally ended calling up the State Police barracks, who answered immediately.

    I was afraid to call 911, but it almost came to that.

  4. And this went on for several days–and took many planning/lunch periods. Thank goodness my 6th graders weren’t in the room–knowing I had no backup, they probably would have jumped me for the candy in the closet.


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