Brooklyn’s Private Jewish Patrols Wield Power. Some Call Them Bullies.
The independent, nonprofit groups tend to see themselves as 21st-century security outfits charged with protecting an insular population whose culture is rooted in preindustrial Europe. They use modern tools, like Twitter feeds and two-way radios, to chase down burglars, guard against vandals, find missing Alzheimer’s patients and control crowds at Torah processions and other large events.
Given the communities they serve, the shomrim also act as intermediaries for the secular authorities, negotiating language barriers and complex social mores for a segment of the citizenry given to speaking Yiddish. And yet in their desire to be, as they like to say, the “eyes and ears” of the police, they have occasionally found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Last month, two men linked to the shomrim in Williamsburg admitted taking part in the assault of a black man in their neighborhood. And in April, as part of a federal inquiry, a former member of the Borough Park shomrim was arrested on charges of trying to secure handgun permits by offering bribes to the police.