TAMPA, Fla. — As COVID-19 takes a toll on law enforcement resources, a local group is stepping up to help provide an extra set of eyes in the community.
Tampa's Guardian Angels were a nightly fixture in Giddens Park, on patrol while a serial killer terrorized the Seminole Heights neighborhood.
Now, three years later, whether it's potential violence or a crippling virus, the group's commitment to safety remains the same.
"The community, I think, should help out and do their part to give police officers a little more free time," said chapter leader Ron Smith.
A handful of members made the rounds Sunday at several storefronts along Hillsborough Avenue, checking in on businesses that have closed since the spread of COVID-19.
"We physically went to every address that was closed, checked the front door, looked inside the windows to see if it looked like it had been broken into or anything like that," said Smith.
The men and women wearing red berets have been on patrol in Tampa since the late 1970s.
Jayme Kosar, who owns three wine bars in Tampa, said the group's presence is a relief during these uncertain times.
Angels stopped by The Wine Bar Seminole Heights on Sunday.
"I'm concerned about all of my inventory, my stock; 200 wines by the glass, 100 craft beers, the cash register," said Kosar. "So we feel very safe knowing they’re in the community, they’re very protective."