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Monday, March 26, 2007

Angels Fight Crime

Hoping to help beat back crime, a volunteer crime prevention crew is ready to spread its wings and hit the streets of the city.

Calgary's first graduating class of the Guardian Angels, a safety patrol squad primed to clean up the seedy downtown scene, was saluted yesterday after three months of training.

And the city's collection of nine red-capped crusaders includes middle-aged Janet Saretsky, a business owner on the edge of Calgary's crime-ridden East Village.

"I don't feel bothered at all that I'm the only female on this team," said Saretsky, 44.

"I don't feel any discrimination -- I feel equal -- and I feel good there's all these men to back me up if I need it."

Indeed, the co-owner of DogCity DayCare and DogWash at 316 3 St. S.E., is flanked by eight male Angels, including her husband Steve.

Although they don't come across as imposing crimefighters, Calgary's chapter hopes to be best described by its spirit in cracking down on drug- and sex trade-related misdeeds and violence.

A sign at the dog centre, which hosted the graduation, said it best by declaring 'It's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.'

And Saretsky knows her crew is capable of spirited teamwork -- buoyed by the confidence gained from top-notch training -- to take on the task.

"It's time to clean up," said Saretsky. "Ten years ago, the crime around here wasn't that bad, but we're hoping business owners are going to come to us to help us deal with their problems."

Bringing about a sense of community safety is also the hope of another Calgary grad, Allen Diede, the oldest Guardian Angel ever.

"It's never too late to make a difference," said Diede, 59.

"You do wonder about your personal safety -- I'm the oldest one, so it has crossed my mind -- but our plan is to use our minds over anything."

Calgary's training co-ordinator and another grad, Greg Martin, believes a successful campaign can be waged with the likes of the Saretskys, Diede, Scott Sonne, Paul Henry, Juston Clarke, Shawn Pullar and Graham Brunka patrolling the community.

"Now we continue with more training and do patrols a couple times a week, and communication with police is going to be very important," said Martin, a 35-year-old civil servant.

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