Orthodox Patrol Seeks to Block Police Access to Security Camera Footage

The leader of the Boro Park Shomrim, an Orthodox volunteer security patrol, does not want the NYPD to have direct access to security cameras being put up in Boro Park in Brooklyn. (Photo by Josh Nathan-Kazis/Jewish Daily Forward)

As we have noted, a $1 million state-funded program will set up high-tech security cameras by schools, synagogues and street corners in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods after the kidnap and murder of Orthodox Jewish boy Leiby Ketzky in Boro Park last year. But the head of the Boro Park Shomrim, a volunteer Orthodox security force, wants to block the New York City Police Department from direct access to security cameras slated for the Orthodox neighborhood in Brooklyn, reported Josh Nathan-Kazis of the Jewish Daily Forward.

Jacob Daskal, who coordinates the Shomrim, made his case, using domestic violence as an example.

“The camera is very good for the community, but if it’s a private thing,” Daskal said. “If it’s a public thing it might hurt a person who doesn’t want to arrest her husband for domestic violence.”

Daskal was referring to a hypothetical situation in which a wife sought to protect her husband by telling police that a reported domestic violence incident had not actually occurred. If a centralized system of cameras easily accessible to the police existed and the incident were recorded, police would arrest the husband regardless of his spouse’s wish. On the other hand, police would need a court order to obtain tape from a camera under private control, and an abusive husband could be kept out of jail if the police failed to pursue the case to that step.

Rather than using a centralized security camera system that would go through the NYPD, Daskal said he would rather have only Jewish institutions monitor the cameras.

Daskal, whose Shomrim organization is often the first group called by Orthodox crime victims in Boro Park, is not opposed to the notion of more cameras in the neighborhood. But instead of [New York State Assemblyman Dov] Hikind’s centralized, police-accessible system, Daskal said he preferred an arrangement by which individual yeshivas would receive state funding for their own private security cameras to monitor the streets.

“I am trying to change the system [so] that it shouldn’t go to [a] central thing,” Daskal told the Forward.

It’s unclear whether Daskal is having any success in pushing his reforms to the surveillance system.

This is not the first time that the Shomrim’s interaction with the NYPD has raised questions, The Jewish Week noted.

The Shomrim’s role in the search for Leiby was controversial. The group launched a massive hunt for the boy, combing the neighborhood and distributing fliers, after family members contacted it. But the Shomrim were criticized for waiting almost three hours after being alerted to Leiby’s disappearance before contacting the police. Questions were also raised about whether the group had been warned earlier about Aron, and whether it knew of other alleged molesters whose names it had not shared with the police.

Daskal defended his organization’s actions during the search for Leiby. He said that though the Shomrim generally rely on witnesses and complainants to contact the police, in this case they called the police themselves after they realized that Leiby’s father hadn’t done so.

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