Citizen's Patrol in Caribbean Neighborhood Gets Help from Unlikely Source

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Terrence Joseph, a retired computer systems analyst in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, had been struggling for almost two years to get a citizen’s patrol underway.

The largely Caribbean neighborhood has a high crime rate, but also has sometimes had rocky relations with the police. Joseph said he began organizing residents so they could improve public safety themselves.

“This is how the idea was born,” he said, ”was wanting to find a way that the community can address some of these problems on its own.”

But Joseph couldn’t find anyone who would provide the resources he needed.

Then, he and his fellow volunteers encountered an unlikely partner: the Shomrim from neighboring Flatbush. Shomrim are Orthodox Jewish patrol groups that play crucial roles in providing public safety in their tight-knit and sometimes insular communities.

The partnership is unusual: blacks and Jews haven’t always had the best relationship. Flatbush is right next to Crown Heights, where in 1991 tensions between the two groups erupted into riots. In fact, Shomrim from other Brooklyn neighborhoods have been accused of racial insensitivity.

But when a local Assemblywoman, Helene Weinstein told Chaim Deutsch, the director of the Flatbush Shomrim Safety Patrol, about the emerging patrol in neighboring East Flatbush, Deutsch decided to lend his expertise.

“You have a plumber, a plumber knows plumbing. But if you have something that can help other communities, no matter what it is, no matter what your profession is, then its right thing to share it,” Deutsch said.

The Shomrim have provided shortwave radios and vests to the East Flatbush group, and the East Flatbush group came to the Shomrim headquarters for a training from Deutsch this spring.

Eventually, the East Flatbush group wants to organize joint patrols with the Shomrim. Except right now, Joseph says he has not yet been able to organize regular patrols among his own group. But he will continue to have the support of the Shomrim, whose rigorous organization and strong sense of community he has come to admire.

“They’ve got a nice community, a developed community, a pretty well-organized and a financially supportive community,” Joseph said of the Shomrim. “We have a way yet to go to get there. But we’ll get there too.”



Matthew Schuerman


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Comments [4]

Ivy from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

I think a big investment of time and of course money, can curb the need for and the abuses of "stop and frisk". Mr. Joseph is so inspiring. We need to find out how to get the funding to support him and to get more Community Observation Patrol groups started in Brooklyn.

Jul. 07 2013 01:31 PM
Kressel from Monsey, NY

That was a beautiful story! I want to contact that Chaim Deutsch and see if he can help out in the communities of Monsey and Spring Valley, which has a similar ethnic divide.

Jul. 05 2013 10:27 AM
Nicky McCatty from Brookline & Brooklyn


If you really want to add some needed depth and accuracy when speaking about Black folks and Jews in New York, you must abandon the habit of assuming that all Blacks are goyim, and all Jews are White. According to Be'Chol Lashon and Kulanu (among other sources), 25% of New York's Jews describe themselves as people of color. In Crown Heights, when I was growing up, more than a minyan of the Caribbean kids whom I knew were Sfardi.

In other parts of Brooklyn, where I've known plenty of Mizrahim and Kavkazim, quite a few would have taken umbrage at being called White. And, in case your reading hasn't ben broad enough to know this, in Russia the term used to designate Caucasians (Kavkazis) is much more redolent of a nasty rap song (or a Paula Deen video) than an homage to pink-skinned suavity.

Unfortunately, thanks to the thoughtless ideas that lots of Members of the Tribe have absorbed about how we're sposed to look, most of my Jewish acquaintances of from those times have walked away in frustration. Please try adding a tiny bit to your way of discussing these matters, by using expressions like Gentile Blacks or Jewish Whites. Or make up something else that adds depth and accuracy.


Jul. 03 2013 07:41 PM

That's when NYC is a beautiful. Even though communities are distinct - there can be cooperation.

Jul. 03 2013 04:55 PM

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