Erskin Felix Sentenced in Murder of Stark, Maintains His Innocence

OPINION – LM

Erskin Felix Claims he is Innocent and We Think He May Very Have Been Wrongly Convicted

Erskin Felix has maintained his innocence since day one. He said he did not kill Stark. He had the opportunity to plea a deal which he did not take, knowing that were he to be convicted, he would not get off lightly. He has continuously stated that he would not have killed Stark.

We have believed, all along. There were more than a fair share of people who had to gain by Stark’s tragic death.  Menachem Stark was involved with business and real estate partners for whom his death was a payday with a windfall outcome. Many of Stark’s properties have wound up in the hands of those very partners who have since sold them onward and made substantially lucrative deals.

There are things about the case that never made sense. The Van did not initially show signs of Stark or DNA. It was not captured on all of the videos that should have captured it had events been as depicted. A second pass over the van lead to finding DNA; and while the inconsistencies with the evidence have resulted in a partial conviction on evidence tampering, we don’t believe any of it. If the evidence was tampered with, it was not by Felix.

It took hours before the police were called in. Instead, the Shomrim were initially called and they reviewed everything first. The lack of transparency within Shomrim as a general matter leads one to question the actions they took after the initial determination that Stark was missing.

We received information that shortly after his death there were changes to LLC boxes at 199 Lee Avenue, where many of Stark’s properties were registered and where many of his property managers had “suites” (more accurately PO Boxes) including new addresses for some of these managers and companies.

We received information from Stark’s tenants who claimed that there were some very shady dealings; many included coercing them to  to sign documents that they later realized dismantled their rights to their homes, just days after the disappearance but before it was widely known the circumstances of Stark’s death or even that Stark was indeed dead. 

Moreover, while there was supposedly a kidnapping for ransom behind the Stark murder, no official information has ever been disseminated regarding the nature of the ransom except an alleged $20,000 payment. However, Felix had always claimed that this was not true. Why would three men from St. Lucia be involved in anything like this for $20,000? It just makes no sense.

We speculate that the other two “conspirators” were paid handsomely to accept a deal, spend time in prison and come out to find some form of compensation for their troubles waiting. It gives us a few years to figure it all out.

In the meantime, we wish our condolences to the Stark family. The death was tragic and unnecessary and right or wrong in our theories, he should not have died for money or for any other reason. 

We sincerely hope there are others out there who see this as we do. Erskin Felix is, in our opinion, innocent. We hope someone, if not us, manages to figure it all out.

Erskin Felix Sentenced to 24 Years to Life for Murder and Kidnapping of Menachem Stark

BROOKLYN

Erskin Felix, convicted of the murder and kidnapping of Menachem Stark, was sentenced Thursday to 24 years to life in prison. Five years and five months after Stark’s death, all four men accused of involvement in the crime have now been convicted or pleaded guilty, and sentenced.

In a victim impact statement prior to the sentencing, Mrs. Bashie Stark described the pain her family has experienced since her husband’s death.

“It was Erskin Felix who planned and executed this cruel attack, and it is he who’s responsible for the trauma that my family is suffering to this day and will suffer for the rest of our lives,” said Mrs. Stark, who remained composed throughout the statement. “With the murder of this sweet and gentle man, my loss is huge and my children too are going through life missing that love and security that their devoted father had always provided.”

“Menachem and I always imagined growing old together and watching our children reach adulthood. But in the years that have passed, two of my children got married and Menachem wasn’t there with us. Two grandchildren were born, and Menachem never got to meet them. To hold them. To bounce them on his knee. They will never know his love. My little ones barely remember their father, the man that loved them more than life itself.”

Stark was kidnapped by two men on the night of January 2, 2014, outside his Williamsburg office, and forced into the men’s minivan, in a scene captured on surveillance footage. His body was found in Long Island the next day.

A jury deliberated for less than five hours before convicting Felix, 40, in April, of second-degree murder, first degree kidnapping and tampering with physical evidence. He was acquitted of another first-degree kidnapping charge and a conspiracy charge.

Felix is believed to have masterminded a plan to kidnap Stark and hold him for ransom, claiming Stark owed him money. Felix managed construction sites on properties owned by Stark, a real-estate developer. Stark was friendly with Felix, according to testimony by Mrs. Stark, and had also hired Felix to do contracting work on his home some years earlier.

According to testimony by Erskin’s cousin Kendel Felix, Erskin and Kendel carried out the kidnapping, then drove to the home of Erskin’s brother Kendall Felix and picked him up, and then picked up another cousin, Irvine Henry. The plan went awry when the group suddenly realized that Menachem was no longer breathing; Erskin had unintentionally suffocated Menachem, who was already bound and gagged, when he had kneeled on Menachem’s chest.

Erskin and Irvine left the vehicle and returned to the area of Menachem’s office – likely to retrieve a tracking device Erskin had placed under Menachem’s vehicle weeks earlier – but, fearing being seen, went home. Meanwhile, Kendall and Kendel drove the minivan with Menachem’s body to Long Island, where they put him in a dumpster and burned him.

Kendel was convicted in September 2016 of felony murder and kidnapping. The other three were arrested shortly thereafter, and Kendel then reached a deal to cooperate with against Erskin for a reduced sentence.

Kendel was sentenced in May to the minimum of 15 years to life.

To continue reading click here.

 

ADDITIONAL READING:

Man convicted in kidnapping, murder of Menachem Stark gets 15 years

‘Mastermind’ of 2014 kidnapping and murder sentenced to 24 years to life in prison

 

 

Stellar Behavior – Perverting the Course of Justice – Yet Another Reason to Disband Shomrim Groups, Stamford Hill, UK

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Neighbourhood watch pair jailed over false robbery accusations

Two men have been convicted of falsely accusing two teenagers of robbery in north London.

Community neighbourhood watch group Shomrim Stamford Hill called police claiming the youths had tried to steal a moped from delivery driver Thiago Alves Vieira last July.

However, CCTV disproved the story.

Vieira, 38, from Edmonton, was jailed for eight months while Michael Scher, 32, was jailed for five months, suspended for two years.

Both had previously pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.

Wood Green Crown Court heard how police received a number of calls stating that two juveniles had been detained for robbery by the group on 3 July.

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CCTV disproves false robbery accusation

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Media captionCCTV disproves robbery accusation

On arrival officers were told the pair, aged 13 and 15, had surrounded Vieira, demanded his moped keys and pushed him.

Vieira, along with Scher, of Amhurst Park, and Yaakov Nowogrodski, who were also members of Shomrim, made sworn statements to support this version of events.

However, this was proven to be a “deliberate criminal conspiracy,” police said.

‘Disgraceful’

Officers later located CCTV that showed the boys had not gone near Vieira.

Det Sgt James Leeks, of the Metropolitan Police, said: “Why these men decided to fabricate this case may never be explained. However, abusing the criminal justice system in such an underhand manner is disgraceful.”

Nowogrodski, 27, was found to have fled the country after he was charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and false imprisonment. A warrant for his arrest has been issued.

Rabbi Herschel Gluck, president of Stamford Hill Shomrim, said: “The Shomrim members involved in this incident were immediately suspended as soon as we were made aware of these serious allegations.

To continue reading click here.

From 2016 – and Now More Relevant – The Shomrim/Shmira Misnomer – Hasidic “Cops” With the NYPD as the Auxiliary Cops

Meet the Shomrim—the Hasidic Volunteer ‘Cops’ Who Answer to Nobody

New York pols from Mayor de Blasio down have supported the groups, even as accounts of their rough conduct pile up.

NYPD Inspector Michael Ameri shot himself Friday in a Department car hours after the FBI reportedly questioned him for a second time about a series of alleged payoffs made by members of New York’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community—including several big donors to Mayor Bill de Blasio—to high-ranking officials in the NYPD.

That probe has focused on lurid reports of diamonds for top cops’ wives and hookers for those cops on free flights to Vegas, but it’s also put a spotlight on a longstanding nexus of shady dealings between New York City politicians, including the mayor, the NYPD, and the Jewish community’s own “volunteer” police.

A few months before killing himself, Ameri cut ties with one such pretend police officer, Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein, the New York Post reported. Last month, Lichtenstein was arrested and charged with offering thousands of dollars in cash bribes to cops in the department’s gun licensing bureau in exchange for very tough to obtain in New York City gun permits.

Lichtenstein reportedly bragged that he had procured them for 150 friends and associates, charging $18,000 a pop and paying a third of that to his police connections. According to prosecutors, the scheme had enabled a man with a prior criminal history that included four domestic violence complaints and “a threat against someone’s life” to obtain a gun.

In the criminal complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court, Lichtenstein was identified as a member of Borough Park’s private, all male, unarmed volunteer security patrol, known as the Shomrim (Hebrew for “guards” or “watchers”).

The complaint did not identify any of Lichtenstein’s alleged customers, however, but sources knowledgeable about the Shomrim are skeptical that he was obtaining permits on behalf of, or for, the Shomrim as an organization. Instead, they argue, it is more plausible that Lichtenstein was operating as a freelancer—albeit one who likely exploited police connections nurtured during his time as a member of the group.

After all, it is not exactly a secret that the Shomrim—along with others from the ultra-Orthodox community who serve as unpaid liaisons to various city and state law enforcement agencies–maintain close relations with members of the NYPD, and particularly those who serve in their local precincts.

For example, news sites and Twitter accounts that play to an ultra-Orthodox audience are littered with pictures of Shomrim hobnobbing with high-ranking police officers at pre-holiday “briefings,” honoring them with “appreciation” awards at community breakfasts or charity dinners, and even engaging in friendly competition at an annual summer softball game.

But Lichtenstein aside, it would be a mistake to conclude that for the Shomrim at least these relationships are motivated by the prospect of personal financial gain or status concerns, even though there’s no doubt that having an “in” with the cops can boost one’s standing in the community. Instead, access and influence are the means of achieving a more important communal goal: the freedom to operate as the de facto police force of their communities, but with backup from the cops in the most dangerous situations.

In some sense, it is almost as if the Shomrim view the NYPD as their auxiliary police.

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The first of these Brooklyn patrol groups were formed in the 1970s in the Hasidic neighborhoods of Crown Heights and Williamsburg in response to rising neighborhood crime and the belief that the police were not up the task of keeping Jews safe. (The journalist and author Matthew Shaer traces the roots of the Crown Heights patrol to a Hasidic rabbi and teacher named Samuel Schrage, who in 1964 founded a group called the Crown Heights Maccabees following the alleged assault of Hasidic students by a group of black youth and the attempted rape of a rabbi’s wife by a black man.)

Today, Shomrim (and in some cases, rival groups known as Shmira) exist in every ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Brooklyn (and in other ultra-Orthodox communities in the U.S. and abroad). The groups operate independently and, while their leaders are fond of characterizing them as the “eyes and ears” of their communities, responding to hotline calls about everything from vandalism, missing persons and attempted robbery to domestic violence and even sexual abuse, they do much more than watch and listen. In Brooklyn, they are equippedwith SUVs and cruisers tricked out with “police package” flashing lights, sophisticated two-way radio dispatch systems, bulletproof vests and outfits emblazoned with shields that look an awful lot like NYPD ones—all paid for by donations and, in some cases, government largesse funneled to them by members of the City Council.

While they lack the authority to make arrests, even with those similar shields, the Shomrim often do things like search, chase, apprehend, and detain.

Indeed, as the head of the Borough Park Shomrim explained to the Village Voice’s Nick Pinto in 2011, people in the community call Shomrim because “they want to see action right away, not get caught up in a lot of questions and answers…Not that that isn’t the right way for the police to do it—who am I to say they shouldn’t ask a lot of questions?”

But people also call Shomrim—as opposed to 911—because, after all, cops are outsiders. And outsiders cannot always be counted on to be sensitive to the specific concerns of the religious community, concerns that include the desire/obligation to protect other Jews from the long arm of the law. And so, while the Shomrim are not averse—and sometimes quite eager—to help cops nab a suspect who is not one of their own, they can be much less forthcoming when a fellow Jew is the suspect.

For example, back in 2011, the coordinator of the Borough Park Shomrim let it slip to the press that his organization maintained a list of suspected ultra-Orthodox child molesters they don’t report to the police because “the rabbis don’t let you.” While there are respected Orthodox rabbis who say the police should be called in cases of suspected abuse, their rulings are not being followed in many quarters of ultra-Orthodox Brooklyn, where this attitude has long stymied law enforcement efforts.

Those comments came in the wake of the murder and dismemberment of an 8-year-old Hasidic child, Leiby Kletzky, who had been abducted by his killer, a member of the religious communty, while walking home from school. When the boy failed to meet his mother at the appointed time, she contacted the Shomrim, who swung into action and mobilized a search; their first contact with police came over two hours later.

At the time, many in the community justified the delay by arguing that the cops would not have taken the missing-person case seriously until more time had elapsed (a claim the NYPD disputed, noting cases involving missing children are acted on immediately). Some members of the Hasidic community also acknowledged privately that another possible reason for the wait to involve police: The fear, reasonable or not, that even had the child been found safe, Child Protective Services might have opened an investigation into why the parents allowed their son to leave school unsupervised.

This instinct toward protecting members of the community—and the community as a whole—is a theme that emerges in stories ultra-Orthodox sources tell about instances where the Shomrim have allegedly discouraged victims of violence or abuse at the hands of fellow Jews from reporting those crimes directly to the police, or even urged Jewish business and homeowners to withhold security footage that might implicate a Jew in a crime.

Indeed, in the wake of Leiby Kletzky’s murder a Jewish organization was given a million-dollar government grant arranged by state legislators to operate a network of security cameras on city lampposts in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Borough Park and Midwood. The organization hired a private firm to operate the network and made the decision, together with Assemblyman Dov Hikind, as to where to install the cameras. Initial reports indicating that the NYPD would have access to the footage only after making a request to the private firm caused a firestorm of protest from civil libertarians and those alarmed by government funding of private security initiatives. Ultimately, when the program was unveiled, the company’s founder said that “the local Shomrim patrol organization would have no access to the cameras but that in any event of an ongoing crime, local law enforcement authorities will be given on-time access to a live feed of the cameras.”

There are also allegations circulating on blogs and in chatrooms about Shomrim members and leaders who abuse their power within these communities, taking protection money from business and using their ties to the cops to get their rivals picked up on bogus charges.

Shomrim leaders have repeatedly denied these kinds of allegations and because the people who recount such stories refuse to be publicly identified, citing fears of reprisal, their claims are impossible to fully investigate and verify.

The cops, too, are well aware of the power the Shomrim yield—power that’s also expressed in the cash the groups receive from city politicians—but, like the members of the religious community, are also reluctant to express their frustrations publicly.

A rare exception was when then-Police Commissioner Ray Kelly acknowledged at a press conference that the delay in notifying the police about Leiby Kletzky was a “longstanding issue with Shomrim” and that traditionally, “certain members of the community have confidence in Shomrim and go to them first.” But Kelly also added that the delay had apparently not hampered the investigation and praised the Shomrim as “a positive force.”

One possible reason cops might not want to publicly criticize the Shomrim is the fact, some say, that over the years the bigwigs in the ultra-Orthodox community have been helpful to them, particularly in aiding friendly officers secure discretionary promotions.

Veteran cops reporter Leonard Levitt last month offered this short, sharp item:

“Ethics Training? Following the transfers of four of the department’s top brass, Bratton announced the department was conducting ethics training for its top officers. Maybe they should start with a warning about the dangers of getting too close to the powerful and insular Hasidic community. Instructors might include Chief Joe Fox, former Chief of Department Joe Esposito and retired Chief Mike Scagnelli.”

That comports with the speculation of one retired NYPD official: “the simple way to connect dots is that guys like [former Chief of Department] Joe Esposito and [former NYPD Traffic Chief] Mike Scagnelli were, at one time, commanders in the 66th precinct. With such longstanding roots in the community, these uniformed guys and the machers stayed close as they rose up the ranks. With [Esposito] as the longest serving chief of the department, the [Hasidim] were in a wonderful position for over 12 years to exercise immense influence over many promotions.”

The former official continued, “(Chief of Transit) Joe Fox himself was a remarkable beneficiary of these discretionary promotions. Everyone loved Fox, and he was the longest serving Borough Commander of Brooklyn South by far. In the 1990s, he achieved three discretionary promotions in 3 years… all while the commander of the 71st precinct [which includes Crown Heights]. From captain to chief in three years, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

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TO READ THE REMAINDER OF THE ARTICLE CLICK HERE.

If There’s a Shomrim, There Should Be a Muslim Community Patrol, When Does the Nation Within Nation End?

Gated City Upon a Hill

In New York City you will find about a quarter-million African-born immigrants, most of whom trace their origins to Ghana. Though they are far from birth home, many still consider themselves part of Ghana’s Ashanti ethnic group and are card-carrying members of the Asanteman Association of the USA. The motto of which, Kum Apem a, Apem Beba, or “Kill a thousand, and a thousand more will come,” might suggest we pause for reflection.

The group swears allegiance to their traditional king in Ghana and elect a local chief, who carries the title of “Asantefuohene.” New York’s newest Ashanti chief, formally addressed as Nana Okokyeredom Owoahene Acheampong Tieku, otherwise known as Michael, works in the Bronx as an accountant. One wonders what happens when these Ghanaians become citizens and, theoretically anyway, are compelled by oath to “renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty.”

But don’t wonder too hard, because there is plenty more to ponder. There’s more cooking in New York.

“Looking for Equal Respect”
Appearing with insignia nearly identical to that of New York City police patrol cars, the Muslim Community Patrol & Services (MCPS) have taken to the streets in Staten Island and Brooklyn. We have been assured by MCPS Vice President Noor Rabah, however, their intention is not at all to police dress, behavior, and speech in Muslim enclaves in order to make sure that they conform with the tenets of Islam.

No, they insist this is something like the Jewish community patrol group, Shomrim, implemented by Jews to protect themselves against, among other things, attacks motivated by anti-Semitism in New York. For example, an Orthodox Jew was recently beaten in Borough Park by a man shouting, “Allah, Allah,” and “Kill all Jews.”

How MCPS might differ from Shomrim, or even the Brooklyn Asian Safety Patrol, becomes evident upon examining the origins and patterns of behavior of similar Muslim community patrols in GermanyGreat Britain and Austria.

Muslim “community patrols” were formed in Europe under all too familiar appeals to civil and equal rights; and, not long after their establishment, took to terrorizing the infidel. In Germany, “These people’s intention is to provoke and intimidate and force their ideology [upon others],” said Peter Jung, mayor of the city of Wuppertal.

In Vienna, Muslim community patrols were behind a series of brutal attacks, including one in which a teenage Polish girl received 22 blows to the head and face. In a video of the attack, she can be seen spitting out blood.

We would be prudent approach the idea of any sort of special  Muslim community patrols from a point of view of extreme caution and, even, prejudice. Why would we need such a thing in America?

Understandably, the NYPD has some concerns about the MCPS. Department spokeswoman Sgt. Jessica McRorie insisted the NYPD had not outfitted or labeled the group’s cars, adding that the “group is not officially sanctioned by the NYPD and they are subject to the law.” But Rabah issued a valid point in response.

“We’re not looking for someone to ‘outfit’ our car,” said Rabah. “We’re looking for equal respect.”

Presumably, Rabah meant equal respect in regard to the tolerance enjoyed by similar ethnically themed community patrols. Or did he? Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, pointedly said that McRorie’s remark “deserves further clarification by the NYPD.”

NYPD might carry the nightsticks, but if Laura Loomer’s literal deplatforming for criticizing the MCPS program illustrates anything, it’s the existence of formal and informal apparatuses of power in the United States.

Our Assimilation Problem
Still, there is uncomfortable truth in Rabah’s point. If we allow one ethnic group to form a security force to patrol their ethnic enclave, how can we deny the right to others? That would mean exercising prejudice, with prudence, but prejudice nonetheless in a society that cannot so much as stomach a little bit of it in this “nation of immigrants.”

To read the remainder of the article click here.

 

Jacob Daskal and His Controlling “Enforcement Role” in Brooklyn: Shomrim, Shmira – What’s in a Name?

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JUST ANOTHER REASON TO RETIRE THE NON-POLICE, POLICE ORGANIZATIONS! AN INTENTIONAL MISNOMER…

Dear Reader:

We cannot overstate enough that we believe it is time to retire, to sunset, to say Kaddish over the Shomrim of Brooklyn. 

The genesis of Shomrim was the brotherhood of Jewish officers who were or are actually police officers. 

But all of the other companies masquerading as Shomrim Police Officers are not actually police officers, they are a neighborhood watch with a misleading name.

It might be time to disband the “ganza michpacha” the “whole family” and rebuild.

Perhaps the brotherhood of Jewish Police Officers should refer to themselves as “Achim” (brothers) and get the word Shomrim out of Brooklyn’s law enforcement parlance.

The Shomrim, who are connected and not connected to law enforcement are less about brotherhoods and protecting and more about…. well, if Yanky Daskal is any example, bullying. 

But if publicly available corporate records have anything to say about reality, Yanky Daskal (Jacob Daskal) is also Principal for the Shmira Civilian Volunteer Patrol of Boro, located in Brooklyn. It appears not to be a company, not to be a corporate entity; but it has an address and money. 

But, all of this appears to be interconnected to the private funds of Jacob Daskal, the private relationships of Daskal and his deep seated political clout.

Shomrim and Shmira, Shmira and Shomrim, what’s what? 

Jacob Daskal – The Satmar Owned … Time to Sunset the Shomrim

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It’s time to sunset the scandal-ridden Shomrim

Does New York City — with its once-unimaginable record-low crime rates — still need private (but city-funded) citizen-patrol groups?

The question became more pressing with the arrest Thursday of Jacob Daskal, politically wired president and co-founder of the Boro Park Shomrim, on charges he repeatedly raped a 15-year-old girl over a period of months in his home.

It’s not the Brooklyn group’s first brush with the law, either.

Last year, Shomrim official Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein was sentenced to 32 months in prison for bribing cops on a regular basis to get hard-to-obtain full-carry handgun permits for paying clients, including some with criminal records.

The group itself has been accused of violently beating suspects it apprehends. And Daskal reportedly was able to arrange for Orthodox Jews arrested for minor crimes to avoid being booked through the system.

Shomrim faced a round of criticism — including from then-Police Commissioner Ray Kelly — in 2011 when it waited three hours before notifying the NYPD of the disappearance of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, who was later found murdered.

Yes, it can be useful for police to establish a rapport with local residents, especially in a community as insular as Borough Park. And a citizen patrol can be an asset in discouraging graffiti and vandalism.

But the Boro Park Shomrim were born during the out-of-control crime wave of the pre-Giuliani era. And those days thankfully are long over.

To read the remainder of the article click here.

The Satmar Ruled Brooklyn Part V – From a 2016 Article, The Shomrim and their Unbridled Power

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Time to Bridle the Shomrim’s Ability to Behave with Impunity – Sunset

To our Readers: We have taken the blow from a 2016 post on another blog “Haemtza”. There is nothing in our use of the below post that should indicate that the blogger who wrote the piece endorses our site. Please click to the original to read it in its original format.

We believe the piece has value, even more today than on the date it was written because, amongst other things, it predates the arrest of Yanky (Jacob Daskal) on sexual assault charges, which we believe was an arrest that characterizes the impunity with which the Shomrim behave.

We feel that today, more than in 2016 when this piece was written, there is reason to be concerned by the unbridled power of the Shomrim.

We feel that the Shomrim is a dangerous enterprise, not governed by the same rules, guidelines and hierarchies that govern law enforcement proper; and for that reason, if no other, it represents lawless vigilantism.

We believe that it is time to dismantle New York’s Shomrim forces for “Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely” Lord Acton, and the Shomrim have outgrown the ability of any other police force to properly enforce its activity. It is a form of government sanctioned control over a community and control over others from within that community and is dangerous. It will only become more dangerous if not reined in now.

Emes Ve-Emunah

A Forum for Orthodox Jewish thought on Halacha, Hashkafa, and the social issues of our time.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Shomrim – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

There is much that is good about the Chasidic world. It is a brotherhood like no other. It is that sense of brotherhood that in my view was the impetus for forming the Shomrim Society back 1977. Shomrim are a group of usually Chasidic Jews that are volunteer neighborhood watchmen. Kind of like Curtis Slewa’s Guardian Angels. They patrol Jewish neighborhoods in order to provide protection against things like vandalism, muggings, assault and domestic violence.

The Shomrim Society has spread beyond its original borders of Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Boro Park, and Flatbush . There are now branches in cities like Baltimore, Miami, Lakewood, and London.

The fact is that a lot of Jewish residents in those areas are happy that they exist. They seem to have political support and some (if not universal) police support – who are happy to have some of their burden relieved by them. Shomrim even has some government funding. They not only add an extra layer of protection to those Jewish neighborhoods, they are often seen by Jewish residents as a first line of defense against crime. Their response time is generally a lot quicker than the police.

There is not a doubt in my mind that there has been more than one occasion where an elderly victim was spared a mugging or an assault because of their quick response. And not all of the people they help are Orthodox Jews. According to a 2014 story in the Hackney Gazette:

…around 70% of the victims (in London) they help are not from the Orthodox Jewish community, usually just local residents from any race or religion.

Although I tend to doubt whether that 70% figure is anywhere near in a Chasidic enclaves like Williamsburg, I do believe that if a caller in distress is not Jewish, they will respond to them just the same.

But that is not the end of the story. I have had my issues with these self appointed watch groups. While there may be a benefit to having that kind of protection by one’s own people, there is a definite downside that makes me question their ultimate value.

The truth is I never liked the idea of volunteer neighborhood watch groups. My feeling has always been that despite the fact that theywere created to protect their communities, many of them were basically police ‘wannabes’ looking for adventure but untrained to do police work.

True, they do not carry weapons (thank God). But a lot of damage can be done with a fist. Or a foot. Or a stick. In their zeal to protect the innocent, they will sometimes go overboard. And in some cases hurt innocent people – mistaking them for a perpetrator. Now this can happen to police too. We all know what has been happening on this front these days. Ask the families of mostly black victims unjustly killed or beaten by the police in cities all over this country.

The difference is that the police are trained to know when and how to react – and how much force to use. So that hopefully – as bad as the recent cases of police brutality have been – they are a very small minority of the police department. As a percentage of the whole, the numbers are probably miniscule. There are bad apples in every group. But Shomrim have no such training. Certainly not on the level of the police department.

 

So, although I am happy that many people have been spared great tragedy as a result of quick response by Shomrim – preventing for example violence against an elderly Jew –  it comes at a terrible price. A price that can best be described in a Forward article by attorney, Michael Lesher. If it were up to him, he would abolish these groups entirely. And with good reason:

The Brooklyn Hasidim accused of beating a young, gay black man named Taj Patterson back in 2013 are reportedly about to get a plea deal so sweet, they won’t serve a single day in prison. Patterson, who was beaten so badly that he was left blind in one eye, and who had homophobic slurs hurled at him throughout the ordeal, is surely having a hard time understanding the aftermath.

I don’t know the details of this case. But it surely smacks of something way beyond protecting fellow Jews. I don’t think that beating and blinding a suspect while hurling homophobic insults at them is what protecting fellow Jews is all about. And this is not the first nor only case where excessive force was used. More from Mr. Lesher:

For too long we’ve allowed a system of Jewish-run patrols to dominate the heavily Orthodox Jewish enclaves of Brooklyn, usurping the role of the official police force (with key support from vote-hungry politicians), despite their record of violence toward non-Jews. And for years we’ve held our tongues as the patrols’ unchecked behavior carried on… When retired police captain William Plackenmeyer told Newsday in 2003, “In Brooklyn, it almost seemed like there were two penal codes, one for the Hasidic community and one for everyone else…”

When Michael wrote an article in the New York Post exposing some uncomfortable truths about Shomrim this was in part the response he got:

To continue reading click here.