MANHATTAN — Who you gonna call?
As a spate of hate crimes targets New York's gay community, a team of real life superheroes is patroling the streets — and their names are Spyder, Spectre, Dark Guardian and Zero.
After the May 18 killing of gay Harlem resident Mark Carson, 33, and several beatings of gay men across the city, the group of self-styled heroes plans to hit the streets of Greenwich Village and the West Village dressed in tactical clothing and bulletproof vests, explained Staten Island-based crime-fighter Dark Guardian.
"Violence on its own is wrong, and it's even worse when a specific group is being targeted," said the martial-arts instructor, whose real name is Chris Pollak, 28. "We care about everyone, from every walk of life, and we want to keep everybody safe. Our focus now is the Village."
The number of anti-gay attacks in the city has risen significantly this year, with 29 compared to 14 during the same period last year, police commissioner Ray Kelly said on May 22.
Kelly said more police would patrol the streets of Greenwich Village in the wake of what he called the "out-and-out assassination" of Carson.
Dark Guardian, who in 2011 responded to a rash of muggings in the West Village, has teamed up with a seven-man, one-woman team called the New York Initiative. The group, which plans to patrol the streets of the Village about three nights a week, is part of the volunteer crime-prevention group the Initiative Collective. It has 11 branches nationally, according to its website.
Dark Guardian said the group that focused earlier this year on Brooklyn will primarily try to defuse budding conflicts in the Village.
"We calm down situations," he said. "If there are a bunch of people banded together, [aggressive people] are less likely to become violent."
Still, he advised people who encounter crime to report it to police immediately.
Accused killer Elliot Morales approached Carson and a friend on the streets of the Village early the morning of Saturday, May 18, Kelly said. Morales taunted Carson and his friend, calling them "faggots," "queers" and "gay wrestlers," before firing a round point blank into Carson's face, Kelly said.
Morales was arrested soon after, charged with murder as a hate crime, and is being held on Rikers Island without bail.
In response to this an other recent hate-crime incidents, the New York Initiative will offer a self-defense workshop in the East Village's Tompkins Square Park on Sunday, July 7, at 4 p.m. The training will teach basic awareness and defensive techniques.
"We'll focus on how to see what's around you, where trouble might be and how to avoid it," Pollak said. "If trouble does come to you, we're going to teach you how to defend yourself."
Participants are asked to RSVP to the New York Initiative Facebook page.
City Council speaker Christine Quinn and the Center for Anti-Violence Education will offer violence-prevention classes at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center, and at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, at the Hudson Guild Elliot Center. Spaces can be reserved by calling 212-788-5613 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.