By Dashiell Bennett (The Atlantic)
May 25, 2012
A Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn will get 150 new surveillance cameras meant to help catch child predators, but the footage will be controlled not by the police, but by an organization that's been accused of shielding child molesters from authorities. The Brooklyn Daily's Eli Rosenberg reports that Agudath Israel of America will be responsible for the setting up the camera program and that a local volunteer security force will monitor the footage, setting up a potential barrier between the New York Police Department and vital criminal evidence.
Agudath Israel has been heavily criticized by outsiders over requirements that its members report claims of child abuse directly to their rabbis, who will then be the ones to determine whether or not to pass that information to the police. The group's executive vice president, Rabbi David Zwiebel, reiterated that rule this week, despite a recent high-profile investigation in The New York Times by Sharon Otterman and Ray Rivera accusing the ultra-Orthodox community of shielding its own members from criminal prosecution of abuse claims.
The camera program was pushed for the Midwood section of Brooklyn after the kidnapping and murder eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky last year. His murder was solved with the help of security camera footage. Assemblyman Dov Hikind who represents the area worked to secure a state grant of $1 million that will fund the purchase and instillation of the cameras, but Hikin's office confirmed to the Daily's Rosenberg that the private organizations will have access to the cameras' output before the police do. The program has also been criticized for being focused on a relatively safe area of the city, while other poorer, more diverse neighborhoods are ignored.