Patrolling Christopher St. to help keep down crime


By Chad Smith

When five thugs tried to rough up David Poster one night a few years ago on Christopher St., they picked the wrong guy.

“I was walking down the block carrying some groceries,” said Poster, who heads the Christopher St. Patrol. “One [of the five guys] grabbed me in a chokehold and tried to take me down. Instead of that happening,” Poster said, “I threw the punk into the street. A neighbor called the cops, and we eventually got this guy arrested.”

After teaming up with the Guardian Angels in 1990, the Christopher St. Patrol, a group of local residents who volunteer their time walking nightly beats, has dedicated itself to neighborhood safety.

“It’s a hard task,” said Poster, a Village resident of 28 years. On a quiet night, Poster said, he or the other members of the patrol, who travel with the Angels in groups of four or five, try and resolve simple, quality-of-life issues in the area. “We’ll tell the teenage or 20-something crowd streaming off the Christopher St. Pier when its closes at 1 a.m. to quiet down,” he said. “Some kids forget that people live and sleep down here.”

Other nights aren’t as pleasant.

Poster has witnessed or heard of assaults, a slashing and robberies in his area. Although the Christopher St. Patrol may not have apprehended the suspects in all of these cases, “We do our best to curtail crime,” Poster said.

Also, male prostitution has become rampant in the area around the pier, and if Poster or his group spot a prostitute, they will crowd around him — a tactic that almost always unnerves the prostitute and also discourages business, Poster said. If drugs or violence get thrown into the mix, however, the patrol will occasionally take physical action, detaining criminals until police arrive.

While Poster said it’s entirely legal to make such citizens’ arrests, he said the patrol actually does this infrequently.

When he’s not on duty with the patrol — whose beat stretches down to Barrow St. and up to W. 10th St. between Seventh Ave. and the Hudson River — Poster is attending Greenwich Village Block Associations meetings. For that group, Poster leads an anti-prostitution, anti-drug task force.

“Everyone deserves to live in a safe neighborhood,” Poster said. “We’re just trying to do what we can, and I think we’re doing a good job. The community response has been phenomenal.”

The Christopher St. Block Association gives funding to the patrol and the Angels, but it’s not enough; therefore, the community helps out anyway it can. Restaurants hand the patrol free food at nights; St. John’s Church throws Christmas parties for them; merchants give gifts.

“It’s not a bad gig,” said Poster, who’s reluctant to admit he’s in his 60s. But don’t let his age fool you, as it did those thugs that [fall] night. Poster works out daily at the McBurney YMCA and keeps in top shape.

“They saw the white hair and they thought they could push me around,” he said. “Well, they were wrong.”