New York Post Op-Ed
August 6, 2011
Obstructing the police is bad enough. But it's completely unacceptable if that obstruction is being funded by the taxpayer.
Yet that's exactly what's happening with the Shomrim, the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood patrol groups in Brooklyn.
Shomrim — which received $130,000 in City Council member items in the current budget — can be a useful asset to communities, discouraging graffiti and vandalism and keeping an eye out for criminals on the prowl.
But as Michael Lesher wrote in last Sunday's Post, the Shomrim — with the blessing of community leaders — often act as if they are the actual police and give only minimal cooperation, if any, to the NYPD.
Last month, the Borough Park Shomrim were notified an hour after 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky went missing. But police weren't alerted until two hours after that — a full three hours after Levi Aron snatched him — and then only by the missing boy's father.
The Shomrim is not a monolithic group; each chapter has its own policy when it comes to working with the NYPD.
Nevertheless, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has said that the Shomrim's failure to immediately notify police when members get reports has been a "longstanding" issue.
The NYPD officially says that the Shomrim's involvement only marginally affected its investigation — this time. However, the private citizen who identified Leiby from local videotapes pointed out that the Shomrim had the same footage eight hours earlier — and weren't able to do anything with it.
Which isn't surprising — because, whether one calls them volunteers or vigilantes, the fact remains that they aren't professionals: They don't have the same skills as the NYPD; in serious incidents, they can be as much a hindrance as a helping hand.
Regardless, they don't need taxpayer funds. The only reason they receive them is — what else? — political influence.
As with other "nonprofit" charities, elected officials steer money to the Shomrim with an eye out for community leaders remembering them come campaign season.
It's unseemly in the best of circumstances, but downright offensive when it ends up subsidizing obstruction of legitimate police efforts.
Time to defund the Shomrim.