Why Doesn’t the Chicago Police Department Want a Private Jewish Neighborhood Patrol Group?

shomrimThe answer is simple. Anti-Semitism.

Nah, I’m kidding.

However, it’s likely that will be an underlying assumption by some who support a new community safety patrol initiative in West Rogers Park. Apparently, it’s an initiative that the Chicago Police Department is none too pleased about, according to a recent DNAinfo article:

[T]he neighborhood’s top police officers are unhappy about the move, saying they don’t want residents to get a false sense of security…..

The patrols caught the eye of the Chicago Police Department, which is tasked with patrolling the whole neighborhood and keeping its residents safe.

District Cmdr. Roberto Nieves hosted a special CAPS meeting with Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th) Tuesday night to address the patrols, which began two weeks ago.

“It was brought to our attention there was a group of citizens in the area that don’t feel the police are serving the community the best we can,” said Sgt. Shawn Sisk, who leads the district’s community policing office. “We can’t stop that from happening; however, we’re not going to support it. We don’t want that to send a false sense of security to the neighborhood.”

Additionally, the article reports:

[T]he police — in one of the safest districts in the city — implored residents to stop the patrols.

Robert Concaildi, the CAPS beat facilitator for the area, encouraged residents to rely on 911 when they feel unsafe or witness suspicious behavior.

Some Jewish attendees at the meeting said they can feel helpless during Sabbath, when their religion forbids them from using a phone unless their lives are in danger.

“I look at this as not a problem, but as a challenge,” Concaildi said, suggesting Jews find a non-Jewish person nearby their homes to whom they can go to for help.

Cmdr. Nieves said the security of the community “involves, cooperation, collaboration and vigilance.”

“Never be afraid to reach out and ask for help — and make contact,” he said.

The article also describes several incidents directed at the West Rogers Park Jewish community since December, ranging from graffiti, to suspicious letters laced with baking powder sent to Jewish institutions, to armed robbery. These crimes have spooked Jewish residents and prompted a few to hire off duty police officers to beef up security in the area, especially during Shabbos and yom tovim when religious Jews don’t have access to cell phones to dial 911.

While the police’s public objection is private patrols signal a lack of faith in the police department and dilute efforts to encourage people to call 911 in emergencies, there could be other concerns that remain unspoken.

As soon as Hatzalah came to Chicago, I’ve guessed that it was only a matter of time before a group of Chicagoans would decide that we also need our own Shomrim. Although this current neighborhood patrol initiative isn’t affiliated with Shomrim, and as of now, seems staffed by non-Jewish officers, it isn’t a far stretch to think that this patrol could spark a community initiative to start a Chicago branch of Shomrim.

With anti-Semitic incidents on the rise worldwide since last summer, some cities are actually encouraging, funding, and training Shomrim volunteers in places where the organization exists.

However, private police patrols, such as Shomrim, are also controversial.

Just last summer, a member of the Crown Heights Shomrim faced hate crime charges after assaulting an African American man. Peter Moskos, a criminologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said:

Citizens should be responsible for preserving safety and order in their own neighborhoods,” says Peter Moskos, a criminologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “But the question to ask is if Shomrim fights against all crime they see or just against crime done to their people. If it’s the latter … then they’re more like a private security agency.”

This is a common critique that comes up with Shomrim – they are quick to work with police authorities in reporting crimes committed by non-Jews against the Jewish community. However, if the perpetrator is a Jew, they fail to report the crime to secular authorities, and instead, handle the incident within the community.

This tendency to not report crimes committed by Jews was brought to light by the Borough Park Shromrim’s handling of the tragic Leiby Kletzy case. Eight year old Leiby Kletsky was reported missing to Shomrim in the summer of 2011. Three hours passed from the time Shomrim received the call to the time the police were eventually notified by Kletsky’s parents. In this Village Voice expose, the case is discussed at length:

The most heat the Shomrim took in the aftermath of the Kletzky murder wasn’t for failing to find the boy or for waiting too long to call the cops. It came with the revelation that the Shomrim actually maintain a list of suspected child molesters in the neighborhood that they will not share with police.

“The community doesn’t go to the police with these names because the rabbis don’t let you. It’s not right,” Shomrim coordinator Jacob Daskel told the Daily News shortly after Kletzky’s body was found.

The statement resonated because it placed the Shomrim at the heart of an issue that has been bubbling in the Haredi community for the better part of a decade: a sex- abuse epidemic akin to the far more publi- cized scandal rocking the Catholic Church.

“The Shomrim have helped the police maintain a community that’s mostly free of the shootings in the streets and crimes that usually end up in the media,” says Ben Hirsch, a founder of the advocacy group Survivors for Justice. “But you do still have some of the terrible social crimes that police would normally be responding to. Instead, within these communities, these crimes are usually reported to Shomrim, and the Shomrim coordinators working together with Orthodox Jewish “community liaisons” cover it up, and it never gets to the cops.”

Between precious tax dollars that might be lost to funding private neighborhood patrol watches, the fear of vigilantism, and discouraging community members to make 911 their first point of contact in an emergency (Hatzalah already does this, as it is fast becoming a communal habit to call them before dialing 911 in a medical emergency), I can understand the Chicago Police Department’s reluctance to support such private security initiatives.

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