Modesto Guardian Angels Looking for New Volunteers

MODESTO -- They know Modesto neighborhoods like the backs of their hands.

But for this job, they don't relay on their hands -- at all.

"We rely on what we call 'verbal judo,'" said David Lambert.

For the record, some of them know real judo, too.

"Some of us, yeah. Haha. I'm not one of the most highly trained ones," Lambert said.

They are the Modesto Guardian Angels -- think of them as Neighborhood Watch on wheels. A group of unarmed citizens patrolling the city streets that see the most crime. And talking with people to de-escalate conflicts and deter more crime.

"We empower people by empowering neighborhoods, one at a time. And it depends on participation," Lambert said.

Right now, their squad is four members strong. But they're striving to have at least 20 men and women on their team, and they need some help.

Lambert, the chapter leader, says it's been hard recruiting and retaining people for one reason.

"There's a commitment," he said.

Just a couple of hours per month in community service. Current members say it's worth every minute.

"I was one of those people who saw on the news things were getting worse. People want to do something about it. Guardian Angels is something you can do about it," Dominic Carmelich said.

And they do a lot more than just walking around. In the last year, Modesto Guardian Angels have aided in two successful missing persons searches. They've provided security at public events and homeless outreach. They've helped families fleeing domestic violence. And they were one of the only groups coordinating flood relief efforts along the Tuolumne River this winter when families lost mobile homes to storm water.

And to make a bigger impact, they need more involvement.

"At the end of the day, you're so satisfied, you feel like, 'my gosh, I made a difference," Lambert said.