By Gabriela Resto-Montero
WEST VILLAGE — 1990 was a horrendous year for residents of Christopher Street.
A flood of nearly 4,000 car thefts on Christopher Street and the surrounding area earned it the dubious honor of being the most likely place to have a car stolen in the entire city. And a host of other crimes, including more than 1,300 robberies and hundreds of assaults, made residents wary of stepping out after dark.
Tired of the chaos, residents invited the Guardian Angels to join them in patroling their blocks and — 20 years of weekly patrols later — now say they have a better community to show for it.
"It gave me back my neighborhood," said Diana Horton, who joined the patrol in 1992 after serving on the Christopher Street Block Association.
"I thought this was something I could do and get to know my own street so I wouldn't be afraid to go outside my door when it got dark," Horton said.
At a banquet honoring the group's twentieth anniversary last week, Poster compared the Sixth Precinct's crime statistics from 1990 to the stats from 2009. The area has seen a 77.5 percent drop in crime over the 19-year period, a testament to the strength of the patrols and the Sixth Precinct's quality of life policing, Horton said. The development of the West Side Highway has also helped the effort, he said.
"If you put the effort into taking back the streets, it's really easy to take them back," Horton said.
Each weekend, patrol members and Guardian Angels meet at St. John's Lutheran Church, get into uniform, receive a briefing from the Sixth Precinct and head out.
From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., four Guardian Angels and a couple of the volunteers walk the blocks west of Seventh Avenue to the Pier from Barrow to Perry Streets.
During their patrols, volunteers have made drug arrests, broken up bar fights and prostitution and helped residents with emergencies, said Dave Poster, a founder of the patrol.
"Most of it is a deterrent," he said. "When we see something going down, we stop it."
Still, the members of the patrol say the drop in crime in the neighborhood hasn't done enough to protect the LGBT community, which has seen an outbreak of hate crime assaults and other attacks in recent years.
"It's still too much," Poster said.
"We're going to continue doing it until we're not needed," he said.