Wingin' It

Fledgling Guardian Angels get the call from gang-riddled Lake Worth

Although we do not meet any drug dealers or gangbangers, Siew assures us that our presence here has been noted. Sooner than we think, we will see action, he says.

You never know when the Razz family — which has reportedly "declared war" on the Angels and threatened the life of Curtis Sliwa — will strike.

The Razz family home on South C Terrace is fenced in with a "No Trespassing" sign at the entrance. It's meant to keep everybody out: the neighborhood's drug dealers; the police who seem to have it in for the family; and now, the Guardian Angels.

Inside the rusting fence, a boy scampers clumsily around the yard, his braids flying in every direction. Another speeds in circles on a motorized tricycle. As I approach the house, a boisterous woman in gold hoop earrings and tight, all-brown clothing rushes out and playfully scolds them.

This is the children's grandmother, Louise Razz, unofficial matriarch of the Razz family who was born in Lake Worth 39 years ago. Her father, Charlie Razz, had 17 children and recently retired after 25 years as a crane operator for the City of Lake Worth. Some of Charlie's children, including Louise, have had problems with drugs and the law. Some of their children have also had problems.

Five Razzes are incarcerated at the moment, Louise Razz explains at the dining-room table as chicken simmers in the kitchen. That includes two nephews, who were arrested on drug charges last year. But for the most part, the family members have cleaned up their act, she says. Gone to school. Gotten jobs. Played college basketball. Lord knows, Louise hasn't touched drugs in 20 years. She's seen what drugs do to people. The delinquent members of her family are either dead or locked up.

Members were appalled to find themselves referred to in the Palm Beach Post last month as a "drug gang" accused of declaring war on the Angels and threatening Curtis Sliwa. Before the story, Louise Razz insists, they had never even heard of Curtis Sliwa.

Peaches Razz, Louise's 26-year-old daughter and the mother of the children in the yard, reads the paper every morning at the leasing company where she works as a receptionist. She was the first to see the story.

"I just wanted to cry," she says, remembering her first reaction and shaking her head. Immediately, she called her mother, who didn't believe her.

Later that day — June 5 — the Guardian Angels showed up at the family's doorstep. Louise Razz says she went out and shook the hand of an Angel. "I said, 'Hi, my name is Miss Razz," she says. " 'I'm not a gang member. I don't sell drugs. And I would appreciate if you would keep off my property and away from my home.' "

Instead, the Angels took pictures of the pink house and placed fliers on Razz vehicles.

"We gotta walk right into the belly of the beast and run our patrols and deal specifically with this family that is, well, infamous for all kinds of criminal activity and drug-dealing activity," Sliwa explains at the Havana Hideout. "In fact, we were there again today."

Whether they had the right house, the Angels were at least in the general vicinity of some major problems. South C Terrace is two blocks from the site of the triple homicide in March, and Louise Razz knows the block has issues. She accompanies me around the neighborhood at 9 p.m., and it doesn't take long to meet the beast. Three of them.

Idling on the sidewalk are three men who look about 20 years old and will not identify themselves. Their hands are in their pockets, and they nervously scan the block. When they hear I'm a reporter, they back away and shake their heads. No interviews.

But what do they think of the Guardian Angels?

"They're disturbing the neighborhood," one says. Glancing down the street, he notices a police car is creeping up the block. In a flash, the men scatter in separate directions, disappearing into dark, grassy alleys behind homes on either side of the street.

Louise Razz knows everybody who comes to the neighborhood. Many of the drug dealers don't live here, she says. The violence, she says, is out of control. Just last night, a 20-year-old man she's known for years was shot three times at a Chevron station just blocks away, which is confirmed by Sgt. Rick Ponce of the Lake Worth Police Department. Another young man got shot nearby, and police are investigating whether the shootings were related or gang-affiliated.

Louise Razz says that when her nephews are released from jail, she will move away from Lake Worth. In the meantime, she says, neither the Lake Worth police nor the Guardian Angels will solve the problem of gang violence.

"I think they're too aggressive," Louise Razz says of the Angels. "They made me so afraid. I don't know who to fear: the gang members, the police, or the Guardian Angels."

Whether the Guardian Angels should be feared is a complicated question.

Some who remember the first chapter in the Bronx say they were a force to be reckoned with. "They were bad­asses. Vigilantes. They patrolled the streets six deep," says a tattooed 30-something woman at Igot's Martini Bar who asks to be identified as "D".

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