By Jon Schuppe
MANHATTAN — Angel Figueroa was walking his daughter to school Feb. 1 when they came across a man, well-dressed and bloodied, who’d just been mugged near their Inwood home.
A native New Yorker, Figueroa didn’t think much of it at first. But his 12-year-old daughter was shaken. He got on Twitter and described what he saw. Someone responded that they ought to bring back the old Inwood Patrol, a civilian safety group that drove around the neighborhood in SUVs before disbanding a couple years ago.
Suddenly, Figueroa had a cause.
The next morning, he and a handful of his Twitter followers took to the streets, walking alongside Inwood Hill Park and Isham Park, where the mugging had happened. There were more muggings, so the group went out again.
Figueroa, 41, who maintains boilers for the Board of Education and has never been active in community affairs, is now spearheading the creation of the Inwood Safety Patrol. He organizes and documents each of their outings — three so far — on a Web site, and on his Twitter feed.
They aren’t trying to copy the Inwood Patrol, which began as a sort of vigilante group in the 1980s and fell apart after losing police support. An officer at the 34th Precinct told Figueroa that the patrol had gotten “overzealous” and they wouldn’t endorse another one.
Figueroa would like the new group to serve as the “eyes and ears” of the neighborhood, sharing information online. His model may be the Shomrim, a Jewish anti-crime group that patrols the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.
He has no interest in taking a bullet. Or a fist. And you won’t see them wearing berets.
“If I see someone getting assaulted and I’m with my group I’m hoping [the attacker] will think twice,” Figueroa said. “Maybe we’ll get some training. We have to figure out what we can do. But nothing taekwondo-ish.”
Figueroa figures on getting support from people who, after each string of muggings in the area, have called for a more aggressive neighborhood-watch initiative.
For now, the group is drafting a charter, designing vests or sweatshirts, and meeting with police to explain their plans.
“We want to be inclusive,” he said.