Safety first

New York’s Community Security Initiative gives patrol vehicles to Brooklyn ‘Shomrim’ in $400,000 pilot 

Program launches ahead of High Holy Days to ‘prevent attacks before they happen,’ CSI executive director says

The Community Security Initiative in New York provided new patrol vehicles and funding to run them to four Jewish civilian patrols across Brooklyn, which saw dozens of antisemitic attacks last year.

The patrol vehicles were delivered to the four participating organizations, known as Shomrim (Hebrew/Yiddish for guards), ahead of the High Holy Days as part of a six-month pilot program. The participants are: Shomrim BoroPark, Flatbush Shomrim, Williamsburg Shomrim and Crown Heights Shmira.

The Community Security Initiative said the four organizations were chosen “based on their security coverage of areas most vulnerable to anti-Jewish attacks.”

Ahead of the High Holy Days, Jewish security organizations have warned of an increased risk of attacks on synagogues and against Jews in general. Recent weeks have also seen dozens of cases of vandalism and “swatting” of synagogues and Jewish schools, in which police are called under false pretenses to disrupt activities.

The funding for the program — $400,000 — was provided by UJA-Federation of New York and private donors, CSI said. In addition to providing the vehicles — a car, pickup truck or SUV — CSI also said it provided funds to cover the “associated costs [of using the vehicle] and resources to increase patrol presence.”

“This effort will bolster security presence in areas where Jews are an easy target for would-be assailants. Additional vehicular support will create a deterrent effect and, hopefully, we can prevent attacks before they happen,” Mitchell Silber, executive director of CSI, said in a statement.

Shomrim organizations have been formed in different parts of New York over the decades as a quasi-auxiliary police force, specifically geared toward protecting the local Hasidic population. Its members, who are unarmed and are not able to make arrests, can still chase suspects and attempt to keep them from fleeing by surrounding them until police arrive. They have at times been accused of using force against suspects and of failing to notify police of crimes, particularly those committed by Jews.

Hindy Poupko, senior vice president for community planning and external relations at UJA-Federation of New York, said in a statement the program was necessary as it was “unrealistic to expect [the NYPD] to be able to cover every street corner 24/7, especially during the High Holy Days.”

While there has been a nationwide increase in reported antisemitic incidents, Brooklyn has seen a disproportionately large number of violent attacks on Jews. Relatedly, Orthodox Jews – many of whom live in Brooklyn — have also been disproportionately targeted in assaults. In its 2022 Audit of Antisemitism in America, the Anti-Defamation League found that of the 111 assaults that took place that year in the U.S., 52 of them — 47% — occurred in Brooklyn and visibly Orthodox Jews were targeted in 53% of the assault cases nationally.