Does New York City — with its once-unimaginable record-low crime rates — still need private (but city-funded) citizen-patrol groups?
The question became more pressing with the arrest Thursday of Jacob Daskal, politically wired president and co-founder of the Boro Park Shomrim, on charges he repeatedly raped a 15-year-old girl over a period of months in his home.
It’s not the Brooklyn group’s first brush with the law, either.
Last year, Shomrim official Alex “Shaya” Lichtenstein was sentenced to 32 months in prison for bribing cops on a regular basis to get hard-to-obtain full-carry handgun permits for paying clients, including some with criminal records.
The group itself has been accused of violently beating suspects it apprehends. And Daskal reportedly was able to arrange for Orthodox Jews arrested for minor crimes to avoid being booked through the system.
Shomrim faced a round of criticism — including from then-Police Commissioner Ray Kelly — in 2011 when it waited three hours before notifying the NYPD of the disappearance of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky, who was later found murdered.
Yes, it can be useful for police to establish a rapport with local residents, especially in a community as insular as Borough Park. And a citizen patrol can be an asset in discouraging graffiti and vandalism.
But the Boro Park Shomrim were born during the out-of-control crime wave of the pre-Giuliani era. And those days thankfully are long over.
Moreover, the Shomrim too often act as if they’re the police — to the point where many residents contact them before the NYPD. But they execute police-like functions with precious little accountability.
There’s something seriously wrong with the Boro Park Shomrim. (Other, similarly named groups are wholly independent.) The ’80s are long gone — and the Boro Park Shomrim should follow suit.