SECURITY INCIDENTS DISCUSSED AT OPEN MEETING IN CROWN HEIGHTS
After Maariv on Sunday night, a meeting was called to bring together residents of Crown Heights who are concerned about the deteriorating security in the neighborhood. Assemblyman Dov Hinkind came to the meeting to hear first hand the concerns of the residents and to give his analysis and suggestions.
More than a hundred men crowded into the living room, dining room and hallway of the house on Carroll Street near NY Avenue where the meeting took place. In attendance were Chanina Sperlin, Liebish Nash, Eli Slavin and Levi Huebner.
The meeting went smoothly as residents took their turn in expressing their concerns and experiences.
Twice survivor of attacks on the World Trade Center, Avraham Kamman, told Hikind about the increasing lawlessness in segments of the black community, the support they get from the press and the potential for extreme danger if issues are not addressed properly and quickly.
Mendy Goldshmidt reported that he and his children had been victim to rock throwing on Shabbos. They located two officers who were new on the job and ill-trained. The officers totally nixed any chance of catching the perpetrators or even filing a report.
A Seewald brother also spoke up about an event that happened on Shabbos. It involved cross complaints and ended without filing a report. Huebner had come to the police station and verified for the meeting participants the difficulties in dealing with the police.
It became clear that the police are interested in having as few reports filed as possible because the number of reports reflects on their performance. The fewer reports the better they are doing their job. Dovid Shmukler told of two personal stories of police negligence. “They are fudging the numbers,” he said.
Hikind asked if all these stories have been documented. Yaakov Young said they can all be found on the internet and in addition to that, he is preparing a record of the incidents.
Further comments revealed that some residents feel they are under siege. Wives and children are afraid to leave the house. Participants want there to be action to improve the security in the neighborhood.
A dynamic speaker whose first name is Shimon spoke about the importance of having cameras on every corner. He also advocated hiring a private security company, “Everyone should pay fifty dollars and instead of being armed with walkie-talkies, Jeeps with visibly armed patrols would do the job,” said Shlomo. Kamman confirmed that this system works very well on Wall Street.
After hearing the first hand experiences, concerns and ideas, Dov Hikind got up to speak. The first thing he addressed was the exceptional hatred he has encountered when working with community problems in Crown Heights. He spoke specifically and he said it was for the record – not something that should be hidden. He told of his vigorous efforts to make peace with the competing Shmira and Shomrim patrol groups. He said publicly that the leaders of Shmira are willing to make incredible compromises for the sake of the community, but the Shomrim are not willing.
Hikind said that the serious lack of leadership in Crown Heights is a tragedy. He compared the Crown Heights situation to other Jewish communities in Brooklyn. “Crown Heights is isolated. You have a large Jewish community but you are surrounded and you are politically outnumbered,” he said. However he informed the meeting that he got a phone call from the Assemblyman for Crown Heights saying that he was concerned about the Jewish community.
Hikind said it is important to have a plan. First you have to document facts about incidents. The documentation is important and that it be facts, and not just stories, is important.
When there is an incident, it has to be reported and if it is not handled properly it has to be followed up. There has to be a demand for action and investigation ending in an answer for every case. A group of lawyers should be on hand for consultation. We need the police, we cannot manage without them, but we are responsible to make sure they do their job. It is not a simple thing.
Hikind pointed out that we always have to be careful what we say to the media because they are not our friends.
Hikind said he liked the idea of putting cameras to watch the streets. He said that in his districts all subway stations have multiple cameras. There is no reason why Jewish Crown Heights should not have cameras everywhere.
Hikind committed himself to moving forward towards getting the cameras and working further with Crown Heights residents. “I care,” he said. “There are times when you have to be tough. But there is no sense in being tough if you do not have a plan. You have to have a plan.”
At one point in his presentation Hikind said, “Look, Moshiach is not coming tomorrow.” With that, everyone in the dining room, living room and hallway responded all at once. The collective response was friendly not hostile. Since all hundred voices were being heard simultaneously, the actual words were not clear, but the message was clear: Moshiach can come this moment! We know it for a fact. That does not mean we are not moving forward B’Gashmius – living according to nature is a Mitzvah even when we know Moshiach’s arrival is immanent. We are ready for Moshiach Now!