A new group has launched with the goal of expanding the services of shomrim, or Jewish civilian patrol, into a broad swath of Gravesend.
Community Safety & Security (CSS) is an affiliate of the Sephardic Community Federation, and is working on a recruitment drive to bring volunteers to the well-established Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol, which could begin patroling the area.
The borders of the area under consideration are Avenue I to the north, Avenue Y to the south, Coney Island Avenue to the east and McDonald Avenue to the west.
“CSS is a new organization that will work to keep our communities safe by establishing initiatives to help reduce crime and increase public safety. We hope to work with the public, law enforcement and community watch groups to achieve these goals,” said Avi Spitzer, executive director of the Sephardic Community Federation.
Spitzer said they already have a core group of volunteers, and hope to build up operations and activities over time. Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz has offered to help the group identify potential sources of funds for their project. CSS is headed by Jack Cayre, the scion of developer and real estate magnate Joseph Cayre.
CSS is not formally affiliated with Flatbush Shomrim.
Flatbush Shomrim Executive Coordinator Bob Moskowitz said that they have not started patrolling the new area, nor have they made a decision on whether or not they will.
“It’s under consideration right now. It’s not a done deal. There’s a lot of logistics involved,” Moskowitz said. “I’d like to help them out, but we have to look at it and see if we can do it. But we can’t help every community that asks us to. Right now it’s still up in the air. If it’s something that’s doable, we’d love to.”
Spitzer said the goal of CSS’s effort right now is to bolster shomrim’s manpower with volunteers from the proposed coverage area, which would provide the resources needed for patrols.
Flatbush Shomrim was founded in 1991 by now-Councilman Chaim Deutsch. Shomrim volunteers patrol the neighborhoods in marked and unmarked vehicles, calling 911 when they see an emergency, monitoring the activities of people they believe to be suspicious, and calling for other volunteers if they feel the need. They can often be the first to respond to a scene of a low-level incident, where they can make a citizen’s arrest if necessary.
Community shomrim patrols have also been the source of controversy. Critics say they can sometimes be overzealous in their duties, inflame ethnic tensions and, at times, an obstacle to police investigations within the Jewish community. Some patrols receive taxpayer funds and resources through the offices of elected officials.
If you’d like to volunteer for shomrim patrols, contact CSS at (347) 781-4679 or by email at CSS@SephardicFederation.org