CHICAGO — The leader of Chicago's Guardian Angels fired back at Mayor Rahm Emanuel Thursday after the mayor suggested the group should escort kids to school rather than patrol the Magnificent Mile for muggers.
Miguel Fuentes, who heads Chicago's Guardian Angels, said it seemed Emanuel didn't know what his group did.
"When the mayor is telling the Guardian Angels and insinuating that the Guardian Angels should be in the neighborhoods working with the community and the police, it's stuff we've been doing for years," Fuentes said.
That came after the Guardian Angels began passing out flyers to shoppers on the Mag Mile warning of robberies and dubbing the ritzy stretch "Muggers Mile."
But Fuentes said his group did the vast majority of its work outside Downtown, which includes things like providing escorts in high-crime neighborhoods.
Although the group has no formal ties to the safe passage program, Fuentes said Guardian Angels escorted students to and from school in areas of North Lawndale and Roseland recently after students were attacked there.
"That's safe passage. We've been doing that for years," Fuentes said.
As for the Mag Mile, Fuentes said "little to none" of the group's resources were dedicated to the area, but the group wanted to warn residents to be aware of recent thefts and "wilding" incidents on Michigan Avenue, and to tell shoppers what they could do to protect themselves.
At a news conference Wednesday, Emanuel said police have the area under control.
"I think the Guardian Angels are interested in safety and security," Emanuel said Wednesday. "There's a lot of areas in the city where they can work in partnership" with police.
But the group argues it already works in partnership with police and the community. Fuentes pointed to a recent arrest made in a Humboldt Park sexual assault. He said a tip from the Guardian Angels led to the arrest.
Founded in New York City, the group expanded to Chicago with the original purpose to protect riders on CTA "L" trains but has since expanded its mission to patrol other public areas.
Chicago's chapter, founded in 1981, has about 50 members, Fuentes said.
Fuentes said maybe Emanuel's comments were misunderstood, but if the mayor actually meant what he said, Fuentes invited Emanuel to "wear the red beret and the T-shirt" and go on patrol and find out exactly what the Guardian Angels did.
Fuentes said he had not heard from the Fifth Floor of City Hall as of Thursday morning but said the offer was always on the table.
"The invitation's always there," he said. "Whether he does it today or 10 years from now, even when he's not the mayor, he's welcome to come out on patrol with us."