Sep 3, 2010

4 Shomrim Members Shot in Brooklyn

Usually when I come across a topic or story in the news that affects me in some way I will read every piece of information I can, research it, read all of the comments people make and shake my head at the stupidity of the general public sometimes. Tonight, I came across a topic I really can't ignore and while I may offend some of the people who read this, I don't think keeping quiet is the right thing to do in this instance.

I have sourced two places- The New York Times and Yeshiva World News.

You can read the entire articles by clicking on either source, but I will summarize as well.

According to the reports, at about 8pm four members of the neighborhood watch group called Shomrim were shot after they followed a man in his car through the streets of Borough Park. The stories reported have varied slightly but the general outline is that the man was known in the neighborhood to have exposed himself inappropriately to children in the area and although NYPD was called on a few occasions, he was gone before they could arrest him. This time, these four members, along with other members in other vehicles followed this guy in order to box him in so they could detain him for the police. When he was blocked on a one way street by a double parked car, the guy got out and ran- and these four young men chased after him. At some point he pulled out a gun and even after they took him down, he was able to shoot one in the neck, one in the abdomen, and two in their hands. Did the guy deserve to be caught- assuming the allegations are true OF COURSE! But there is a system in place for a reason- and one of those reasons is the safety of the general public. The jubilant praise that some have expressed over this man being caught would read very differently if one of his bullets had hurt/killed a pedestrian passing by. There's a great service set up throughout all of the US to help in situations like this- it is called 911.

Here's where it gets personal. A family member recently joined this group, in order to help make his neighborhood safer for his wife and children. While I commend and applaud this effort, I also have grave, warranted concern. These men are volunteers, trained in basic CPR and taught some skills with regard to detaining and handling situations- but they are not armed and they are not actually equipped with enough training to handle real criminals. Their group works as a neighborhood watch, that is not in dispute here. But the way the situation has evolved, these young men start to develop the 'Superman' complex and think they can handle any situation. They get flashing lights and are issued radios so they can listen to what is going on. Most of these men have young wives with children at home. They work regular day jobs- as in the case of these four young men- two bakers, an insurance salesman and a dry cleaner. Back when Shomrim was first founded, when police response time was a lot worse and Brooklyn was a different sort of city, they were invaluable. But the area they are lacking in is the basic idea of safety- your own comes first.

Even EMS workers are taught that before they enter a scene to save lives they have to be given the all clear by the police. It is common sense. Also, and not to generalize, these young men get very caught up in the chase and the lights and the power. It starts with good intentions- but how many disasters have to happen before someone slaps them with a giant lawsuit (as a group and individually) or until one of them gets critically hurt or killed? There was an incident earlier in the summer where a member entered a bank where a robbery was in progress and held his radio up at the robber and yelled at him to put the gun down or he'd shoot. The robber shot him. It is a slippery slope, and who decides where the line is drawn? On the one hand, these boys aren't armed so what do you expect will happen? However on the flip side, do you really feel safer knowing that in order to combat violence they would be armed with guns themselves? I wouldn't. The potential for tragedy is so great here. If these boys really want to help in more than a neighborhood watch setting, they can volunteer at the fire department- I know guys who do. They could join the police force if they feel that strongly about it.

When I started writing this I was absolutely livid over the comments people left on the Yeshiva World article.  Most of them make people within the community sound ignorant and hateful.  No one should advocate people dying- perpetrators or otherwise. There will always be individuals who push their positions a little further than they should- so giving guys with trucks flashing lights will sometimes result in them using those lights for the wrong reasons. Do I blame them, no. But I do believe very strongly that there needs to be better management and training if this group is going to continue down this avenue. And I also want the family member who just joined recently to go back to just his day job. Your wife and family need you at home a lot more than the wrongdoers on the Brooklyn streets do.I say that with respect and admiration for what you are trying to achieve, but in this case the risk does not justify means.

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