CROWN HEIGHTS MULTI-CULTURAL CO-OPERATION SAVES GIRL
Early Friday morning, May 2nd, a girl was walking from the subway station and forced at knifepoint to enter an apartment building where she was taken to the top of the stairwell. She screamed for help as the perpetrator began to unfasten and strip her of her jeans.
The building, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is home to a mixture of predominately Black residents, and a few Chassidic Jews. The screams were heard by a Chassidic man living on the top floor. Well aware that he would be intervening in a scenario outside of his own culture and therefore could be risking his own life, he took his phone in hand and ventured out to trace the screams. Announcing first “Are you in need of assistance?” Leonid Yavich frightened off the assailant and called 911. “At first I chased the criminal,” said Yavich. “I realized I could not catch him, so I went back and waited with the girl. She was hysterical. The police came quickly. A detective called me the next day to confirm the details. He was very emotional when he told me that I literally saved the girl.” Both the assailant and the victim were Black.
Yavich is a member of a Crown Heights patrol group known as Shmira. Shmira has worked together with the police to keep the Crown Heights neighborhood safe for decades. Their goal is security. They assist all segments of the multi-cultured Crown Heights community. “Despite my desire to help a person in distress, if not for my years of training and experience with Shmira, I would have hesitated to act in such a precarious situation in the middle of the night,” admits Yavich.
Jewish community leaders are wondering if the rescue of a black girl by a Shmira member will change the perspective of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes who has recently compared Shmira to Bloods and Crips – violent gangs that threatened area of Los Angeles in the 60′s and 70′s. “Here we have a clear case of a potential rapist operating at knife point and a Black victim who was saved because of Shmira. We expect Mr. Hynes to give praise when praise is due and show support for Jews who protect the community. Shmira Patrol is an asset to Crown Heights’ entire multi-ethnic composition,” commented Rabbi Leibish Nash, senior Member of the Board of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council.
“While others may sit in their mono-ethnic neighborhoods and talk of love and unity – we in Crown Heights live side by side with our neighbors in our culturally diverse atmosphere. Our day to day life has long been cited as a model to the world as to how different peoples can co-exist harmoniously. Unfortunately we do have incidents – in a big city they can be expected – but we know from experience that even those rare and tragic incidents are manageable. Shmira has been an integral part of keeping the peace in their program of working together with the NYPD. This latest example this past Thursday that certainly saved one 17 year old Black girl from being raped at knifepoint will surprise no one who lives here.”