As New Yorkers we tend to depend on the valiant members of the NYPD to ensure our security but for residents of Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and elsewhere the frontline folks ensuring communal safety are the self-sacrificing brigade of the Shomrim.
Despite the fact that as of late the Shomrim have garnered a spate of negative ink due to the reprehensible behavior of one particular member, it would behoove us all not to paint with broad strokes in making a blanket and unduly harsh judgment of this life saving organization.
For those not in the know, Shomrim are proactive volunteer Jewish civilian patrols which have been created for the purpose of combatting burglary, vandalism, mugging, assault, domestic violence, nuisance crimes, anti-Semitic attacks, and to help and support victims of crime. They also help locate missing people.
Shomrim was first established in the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Boro Park, Crown Heights, Flatbush, and Williamsburg in the United States, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Similar patrols were later established in Monsey, New York, Baltimore, Miami, Waterbury, Connecticut, and London in the UK.
Throughout the years, the intrepid members of the Shomrim have coordinated their efforts with the NYPD and their other respective local law enforcement agencies. As a result, they have single-handedly served as a formidable factor in preventing a litany of potentially violent crimes and thus saving precious lives on a daily basis.
And let us not forget that 70 percent of the victims that the Shomrim helps are not from the Orthodox Jewish community, but rather they are just local residents whose race, religion or nationality is of no consequence to the unpaid volunteers of the Shomrim. In Brooklyn, Shomrim members, according to their coordinator, are fingerprinted and checked for a criminal record before being allowed to join the patrol. In Stamford Hill, London, Shomrim volunteers undergo training according to Security Industry Authority standards and are CRB checked prior to joining as a volunteer.
Born in the out-of-control crime wave that plagued New York City decades ago, the Shomrim have morphed into a sterling paradigm of what a community based patrol can accomplish. In addition to establishing a solid rapport with the NYPD in the ultimate objective of serving as a visible deterrent to criminal activity in the area, the Shomrim are generally lightning fast responders in emergency scenarios and are capable of apprehending suspects before the police arrive.
As such, we owe the Shomrim (both near and far) our genuine respect, admiration and appreciation for putting their lives on the line for the communities they serve. The fact that one member’s despicable behavior has brought shame on an indispensable organization is no reason to abandon our support for the Shomrim. Yes, we vehemently condemn the egregious behavior of said individual but we remember and are grateful for all that the Shomrim have done to protect us, our families and communities