Volunteer safety organization Guardian Angels has been around since the 1970s, but the civic crime fighters have recently seen a new surge in popularity, as documented by reality show "Angels in Action,"which premiered last week at Philadelphia's Comic Con.
"We are seeing an uptick in people being interested, if not in joining chapters, than in setting up their own in their community," Pennsylvania coordinator Scott Koppenhofer said.
"In part, that's because of right now with the financial situation, police departments across the country just do not have the funding they had years ago. Grant money and government funding is very slim and they're trying to get creative with what to do. We're finding more police departments in more cities are willing to work with us more because they need the extra help."
The show is the brainchild of the Angels and Gary Kleinman, whofor more than 20 years worked at Disney Studios, departing in 2011 as vice president of new media to launch web-only channel FirstRun.tv, which is producing and airing the series.
"[Guardian Angels] have had offers for TV shows before, but they wanted them to fake things, have stunt doubles – that's not who they are. They didn't want to compromise," Kleinman said, noting "Angels in Action" is shot by camcorder-wielding Guardian Angels on patrol rather than television crews.
"This is a real show," he continued.
"I think reality TV has given itself a black eye because no one believes it's real anymore."
Partially shot in Philadelphia, the first episode of "Angels in Action" details patrolling members attempting to galvanize a neighborhood around the rape and robbery of a 63-year-old woman and performing a citizen's arrest on a college student seen buying drugs in Kensington.
Koppenhofer said the Guardian Angels' leadership is currently going through a "restructuring" process in Philadelphia, training new members in first aid, CPR, verbal de-escalation and self defense in preparation for a renewed presence, which they'll start by targeting the area near Kensington Avenue and Somerset Street.
"If we witness a crime, we're obligated to follow that all the way to the court system as a witness," he said.
"It's not for everybody, but we always say you've got to do something in your community to make a difference. Don't just close your blinds and stick your head in the sand."
Check out the first episode of "Angels in Action" here.