From our sister site The SeaTac Blog:
By Izzy Wallace
Benjamin Hammond was once part of the “Guardian Angels,” a renowned Harlem safety patrol, and he’d now like to bring a similar group to SeaTac.
Hammond first had the idea when he was reading comment after comment on a local community app, of people asking what to do regarding nearby crimes.
“I was on the Nextdoor app, we all talk between Burien, SeaTac, Des Moines, about what’s going on in the area,” Hammond said. “I kept seeing info about my neighborhood, and some people, they were talking about putting together a watch group.”
But without experience of their own, this can be a lot to take on.
“It’s dangerous out here. I know the streets well, but they don’t really know what could be out there,” he said.
Hammond has had some experience in this field.
He grew up on the streets of Harlem in the 70s. In his early teens, Hammond had run away from home, and was dealing drugs.
However, things changed as he grew up.
“As I started getting older, I started hanging around a lot of friends, [some] who were in the Guardian Angels,” he said.
The Guardian Angels are a non-profit group based in Harlem, started in 1979 and made up of patrol volunteers.
Their primary goal is to keep the community safe – whether that be through patrols, assisting the elderly, teaching practical skills and self defense, or detaining criminals until the police arrive.
The original group is still alive and thriving today, with active patrols in seven New York cities, and it has expanded their message all over the globe.
Guardian Angels can be found in 22 U.S. states, and 19 international countries – with particularly strong presences in Japan and Italy.
“The guy that started it, he wanted to save his neighborhood,” Hammond said. “He was kind of like a gangster, but he loved his neighborhood.”
His history on the streets, and being a former Guardian Angel, has helped equip Hammond to lead such a group.
And with repeat crimes and suspicious activity flooding his area, it seemed like it was time to take action, he said.
“One of the biggest things we have, is called boxing,” Hammond said. “That’s when they hit the mailboxes out – they take credit cards, money, personal information.”
Squatting is another very common issue.
“If [a house] goes empty for a month, people go squatting there,” he said.
According to crimegrade.org, SeaTac has an especially high amount of property crimes, along with an average of one crime happening every six hours, 19 minutes.
The hope is to begin with patrolling SeaTac, and expand to nearby cities.
“We would start with SeaTac, then get Tukwila and Des Moines involved, move to Seattle eventually,” Hammond said.
He said he is hopeful that just the presence of a patrol group will help stop crimes before they occur.
“I want them to know who we are, and why we’re here,” Hammond said. “We don’t start trouble, but we prevent it from happening.”
But much like the Guardian Angels, Hammond said this group would be for the community first.
“We would also make up a list of all the [local] seniors, we want to make sure they don’t need anything, that they’re taken care of,” he said.
Things like getting senior citizens groceries, helping with chores, and bringing over meals.
“It’s a community group, if there’s any needs in the community, we want to make sure they’re being covered,” Hammond said. “It’s not only protection, it’s to help the community.”
The next step to get the group started, is to receive support from the city and police.
“We‘re reaching out to get the police to back this up, I want their support in this,” he said.
Hammond said there is some paperwork involved that he is getting sorted, and meetings that need to be made.
“Next, I’ll have to make an appointment with the mayor and city council,” he said.
If the group is approved and backed up, Hammond can then start to assemble his team of volunteers.
We reached out to SeaTac Police Chief Jon Mattsen for comment, but he did not respond to emails or phone messages.
“I want people like-minded to be on my team,” he said. “I know how to organize, I know how to get people together, and I know what needs to be done out there, because I know what’s out there.”
Izzy Wallace is a graduate from Highline College, where she got her AA in Multimedia, and her BAS in Integrated Design. She had previously worked at Highline’s newspaper for several years as Editor-in-Chief. You can send her ideas for news stories, or photos of your dogs, at [email protected].