Guardian Angels Fight ‘Knockout Punch’ Attacks in Brooklyn

Curtis Sliwa with fellow Guardian Angels Shaggy Wilfred (left) and Manuel Colon. (Photo by Adam Dickter via The Jewish Week)

Curtis Sliwa leads fellow Guardian Angels Shaggy Wilfred (left) and Manuel Colon (right). (Photo by Adam Dickter via The Jewish Week)

Volunteers from New York’s famed citizen crime patrollers the Guardian Angels have started appearing on street corners in the Midwood section of south-central Brooklyn following two moderately violent “knockout punch” attacks, reports Adam Dickter in The Jewish Week .

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa says he was invited to patrol Brooklyn’s Jewish neighborhoods following a string of “knockout punch” attacks, involving some 10 victims.

According to Sliwa, large groups of his volunteers were patrolling the streets round the clock in Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Borough Park and Midwood. However, Jewish leaders in those communities confirmed to The Jewish Week only sporadic sightings of the Angels.

Members of the community are happy all the same.

“Anyone who wants to come in and help is welcome,” said Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who represents parts of Borough Park and Flatbush.

Crime has generally been low in Midwood, a middle-class neighborhood rich with Jewish infrastructure. Before the knockout attacks, however, it was periodically in the headlines for swastika paintings and the synagogue vandalism. The community here is so concerned about crime that it elected Chaim Deutsch, the founder of the Flatbush Shomrim volunteer patrol, to the City Council in November elections.

“The neighborhood is changing,” said Gregory Rozenblatt, 35, a transit worker who lives in an apartment on Avenue M and has been in the area since his family arrived from Russia when he was an infant.

He says landlords of apartment buildings are not vetting the newcomers and are letting “the wrong kind of people” in the neighborhood. He also complained of loud rap music being played by his neighbors.

“It wasn’t like this 20, 30 years ago.” He recalled being in a local pizza shop when someone came in and spit at the owner, who called the police.

For Sliwa, the knockout attacks are not new, but rather a third cycle of them in his three decades on the streets. He says the Democrats’ attacks on stop-and-frisk searches and a court ruling against the practice have made criminals bolder and the police less aggressive and more reactive.

“The cops are laying off, not frisking, not tossing guys, not making their lives miserable,” Sliwa lamented, which leads to ”thugs taking license to rough people up.” He said cops overused the searches as a means to make more arrests and then get themselves off the street to process them, but a middle ground should be found.

Sliwa, who is raising three Jewish children with his companion, Melinda Katz, the borough president-elect of Queens, says the Angels’ presence will deter the attackers.

“If you want to be a macho, maniacal guy and you want to challenge someone, see if you can knock someone out, hey, I’m standing here, I’m close to 60,” he said defiantly. “We have other Guardian Angels — you hit us first, see if you can knock us out and we’ll hit you so hard your mother will feel the vibrations.

“Maybe that’s the language you can understand,” he added. “Pain compliance.”

Although the Orthodox patrols and the NYPD are out in Brooklyn’s Jewish neighborhoods, the Angels feel that their volunteers can still contribute to deterring knockouts.

“They have no spine,” said Wilfred, one of the Angels volunteers, of the knockout punchers.

A Newark resident who works as a security guard when he is not on patrol, Wilfred echoes Sliwa’s challenge. “Anyone who has the guts to walk up to an elderly person [and hit them] them, someone bigger than them should have the same guts to knock them out. Turn the situation around, and see how that feels.”

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