The Guardian Angels, who have been diligently patrolling Greenport every week for months, have uncovered what they believe is gang graffitti near the railroad tracks.
According to Benjamin Garcia, patrol leader for the Guardian Angels in Greenport, the graffiti was found on a trailer, and read “666”.
According to multiple sources, the “666” tag is sometimes used by the 18th Street gang.
“We do get a variety of graffiti complaints over the course of the year, some are just tags of a graffiti artists’s work, some are simply symbols of favorite bands — but some are definitely associated with gang symbols and gangs marking their territory,” said Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley. “We have seen the ‘666’ tag in the past in different parks in Greenport, so this may be an older graffiti marking, and yes, that symbol was associated with the 18th Street gang. We investigate every report of graffiti sightings in town and document them by photographing and maintaining a file with all of these photos, which will assist with our investigations.”
Steven Lundquist, commanding officer of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Gang Intelligence Unit, said the symbol is also used as a sign of the devil.
Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, said the Guardian Angels are fighting back and taking a proactive stance against any signs of gang activity in Greenport, including graffiti.
“There is no doubt that it is gang related graffiti,” Sliwa said. “In communities all over the country, large or small, there is a rule of thumb: As soon as the gang graffiti goes up, it must be painted over or removed.”
Often, Sliwa said, the graffiti is painted on commercial or residential property that’s owned by absentee landlords and property managers, “if they even have one, normally won’t lift a finger to have it removed. Every day it remains up, it empowers the gangs all the more. It says to the immigrant community, ‘We rule the day and we rule the night.’ The kids see it and then, some are attracted to it as part of a public recruitment campaign. Every minute, every hour, every day it remains up it strengthens the gang.”
Sliwa said if the graffiti remains in Greeport, the Guardian Angels will remove it themselves.
Hate crimes and graffiti laced with gang symbols must be eradicated, Sliwa said. “Imagine if it were swastikas, how quickly it would be removed, and rightfully so. The fear and intimidation of what the swastika stands for, especially in the Jewish community — we’ve seen that controversy blow up recently in Commack and before that, in Bellmore, where teenagers were flaunting swastikas. When the immigrant community sees the gang graffiti from their country of origins it reminds them of the nightmare that they have fled from. The tyranny has followed them to the East End.”
Sliwa attended a Tolerance Dinner at Westbury Manor last night hosted by the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, he said. “The people of Long Island need to recognize the harm, fear, fright and hysteria that the gang graffiti spreads in the immigrant community. We will be in the forefront of removing it and keeping it off.”
In Southold Town, the anti-bias task force came before the town board today and outlined ways it, too, aims to galvanize to prevent gang activity or bullying, looking toward education of young people to help create change. The immigrant community, they said, needs to be able to feel comfortable coming forward to the police when necessary; the hiring of a Spanish-speaking officer this year was a critical step, the group said.
Meanwhile, the Guardian Angels who’ve patrolled the streets of Greenport continue to report a positive response from the community.
“Cars have been passing, with drivers honking at us and giving us the thumb’s up,” Garcia said.
Diners on Front Street stopped a recent patrol and thanked the Guardian Angels, as did recent guests at a children’s birthday party held near the carousel; kids and parents asked the Guardian Angels if they could pose with them for photos.
“They tell us we’re doing a great job,” Garcia said, adding that even a police officer on patrol last weekend gave the Guardian Angels words of support.
Cami Feeney of Southold said after she heard about a brutal gang shooting and machete attack that began in Greenport between the 18th Street gang and MS-13 and ended up in Southold last fall, she was “very, very concerned. I was shocked.” She and her family left Sayville for a quieter North Fork life but now, she said, she won’t even let her the son, 14, ride his bike alone at night.
Stopping to thank the Guardian Angels, Feeney said, “It’s nice to see you guys here,” she said. “Thank you for what you do.”
On a recent patrol with the Guardian Angels, two members of the Latino community also stopped to sign up as future patrol members. “I want to help make a difference in my community,” said Walter Alvarado.
Sliwa said the Guardian Angels’ continuous presence in the village over the past months has helped to create bonds and a sense of security.
“The Guardian Angels’ regular presence is building up trust in the local immigrant community, so if they have a problem involving public safety they know feel confident to approach members of their own community, who are out there boldly patrolling as Guardian Angels. From the merchants to families to day laborers and street people, the more we’re out and involved with their community the more trust is conveyed into us. As of this date the assimilation of the Guardian Angels into the immigrant community is working as planned,” he said.