UK & World News
New York 'Superheroes' Fighting Street Crime
On New York's mean streets there is a secretive group of men and women fighting crime, poverty and generally lending a helping hand.
They are part of a loose coalition of people called The Real Life Superheroes.
In the day they do relatively normal jobs, but when the sun goes down the costumes come out and the missions begin.
Nobody knows exactly how many are involved, but Sky News met three of them.
Nicole Abramovici is The Prowler, a 'superhero' who specialises in helping animals and the homeless.
She runs her own business as a professional organiser, hired by clients to de-clutter and streamline their lives.
It means there is a ready supply of items to donate to the needy, which she tries to do at least twice a month.
Dressed in her cat costume at Penn Station in midtown Manhattan, she explained to Sky News why she does it.
She said: "It was the way that I could interact directly with the recipients of the goods I wanted to give, and not be held up by any bureaucracy or agency, and if wearing a superhero costume was what it took to do it, I was happy to do it.
"It's kind of become exciting for me. It helps with approaching homeless people when you have something that makes you stand out.
"They don't think I'm coming up to arrest them, or pick on them, and obviously something fun is going on, so it's a little bright spot in their day.
"The Real Life Superheroes are amazing," she says. "We all do different things. Some of us do homeless outreach in the streets, some of us break up fights that we see outside bars.
"But everybody has a great big heart, everybody has their own style ... we welcome more superheroes. please join us!"
Chris Pollak works at the more dangerous end of the spectrum.
He is a martial arts instructor by day. By night, he is the Dark Guardian.
Often joined by other superheroes, he patrols high-crime areas to act as a deterrent.
He said: "We've gotten in the middle of fights, we've been up against some pretty tough criminals.
"We haven't had to really hurt anybody or do anything like that, most of the time de-escalating the situation, talking it down, will work.
"A vigilante is someone who takes the law into their own hands.
"We follow the law - we're not out there hurting people, putting our hands on people ... if somebody's in real danger that's when we'll step in.
"We're working on the first superhero school," he adds.
"It's going to teach martial arts, self-defence, parkour, but more than that it's going to teach heroic ideas and values, and we're going to teach people how to make a difference in the community and how to help others."
Chaim Lazaros is otherwise known as Life, a superhero who tours New York's addiction centres and homeless shelters.
He said: "The idea of the superhero allows me to explain very simply to them that I'm doing this purely as an individual, that I'm answering to my own authority, and that I'm doing this out of my own volition.
"There's a lot of people and they are struggling and holding on by a thread, and then that thread snaps and suddenly they find themselves in free fall and they don't know where to turn.
"There are great organisations that do lots of good and I just try to plug the many holes."
And this group of people are not alone.
There are other superhero collectives at work in the city and some people who work solely as individuals, unaffiliated with any group.
The NYPD does not have an official position on this kind of activity but police sources have told Sky News that they do not believe it is a good idea.
They point out that crime in New York is actually at a record low.
They also say that people are free to act within the law but are concerned they may be putting themselves in harm's way.
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