[NY Daily News] — Hasidic patrols in Williamsburg rule the streets like real cops – driving unmarked cars, flashing emergency lights and snatching people they think are criminals, say residents and police.
Members of the private security patrols cruise the Brooklyn neighborhood listening to police scanners. They don’t carry guns and have no arrest power.
Some in the neighborhood – a mix of blacks, whites, Latinos, Hasidim and hipsters – say they help keep crime down. Others contend the patrols unfairly target people of color.
“We are trying to keep the neighborhood safe,” said Hershy Deutsch, 23, founder of the Kings County Safety Patrol.
“People think we go around trying to beat people up. We don’t do that.”
Deutsch said his 25 members use personal cars in Williamsburg, sometimes flashing orange and yellow lights “for caution.”
Williamsburg’s most well-known Jewish patrol is the Shomrim – named after the Hebrew word for guard. There are similar groups in Crown Heights and Borough Park, Brooklyn.
Residents say they often see speeding unmarked cars driven by members of Jewish patrols. Some of the vehicles have flashing red and blue lights.
A Daily News reporter recently spotted a mechanic on Kent Ave. installing a red-and-blue backlight package on a black, unmarked Toyota Camry. The mechanic said the car, which hadbogus parking placards in thewindshield, belonged to a Williamsburg Shomrim patrol member.
“It’s not illegal for me to install them – only for them to use them on the street,” the mechanic said.
The Shomrim patrol wouldn’t talk about the lights, but the NYPD suggested the patrol was running afoul of the law. “The placards are not official, and red rotating lights are restricted to authorized police and fire vehicles and ambulances,” said Paul Browne, the NYPD’s top spokesman.
Jewish residents said they’re surrounded by crime-filled public housing projects and need more eyes on the streets. Last week, police said Dwight Chaparro, 29, whacked Rabbi Mordechai Stern, 57, over the head with a wooden shelf.
Witnesses to the fight over a parking spot at Bedford Ave. and Wilson St. called Shomrim, whose members held the suspect until cops arrived.
Chaparro’s mom said her son was covered with “black-and-blue” marks because Shomrim members beat him up. He was charged with felony assault, menacing and criminal possession of aweapon.
John Figueroa, 14, said a Jewish patrol member accused him of stealing a Hasidic kid’s bike and then cracked him in the nose with a walkie-talkie. Records show Yakov Horowitz, 32, was charged with assault after the May 18, 2009, attack on Wythe Ave. “They thought we stole it. I was like, ‘Y’all not taking this bike,’” Figueroa said.
Horowitz was convicted of disorderly conduct a year later, paying $120 in court fees for the violation, a court official said. The Kings County Safety Patrol said Horowitz was not a member.
The Williamsburg Shomrim didn’t return calls about Horowitz.
Instead, it emailed a statement saying it has helped with the arrest of “dozens of suspects – the attackers of Jews and non-Jews alike.”