The New York City Police Department has a new idea to help calm racial tensions in Crown Heights, the Lubavitcher stronghold where race riots erupted in 1991: joint patrols.
A new civilian watch group in Crown Heights is bringing together blacks and Jews in a neighborhood once synonymous with racial tension.
If all goes as planned, a Caribbean-American pastor could share a car with an Orthodox Jew on the NYPD Civilian Observation Patrol – or blacks might volunteer for Friday night shifts, when their Jewish neighbors can’t work.
"It’s a quantum leap beyond what it was in 1991," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said, referring to the riots that rocked the community nearly two decades ago.
A great idea maybe, but it’s already rubbing up against Jewish community politics. In particular, the two Jewish patrols that already exist in the neighborhood, Shomrim and Shmira. According to the Daily News, several Shmira volunteers have joined the NYPD patrol, but Shomrim members have shunned it so far.
The two groups have quite a history, as this New York magazine item shows. And the New York Post reported last year that the NYPD patrol was in fact concieved to try to get the two groups to cooperate (a point the Daily News missed).
One wonders if the NYPD has any idea of the shtetl dispute they are dipping their feet into. From the Post:
Shmira and Shomrim, private crime-patrol organizations in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, have been rivals since the late ’90s, when they split.
Shmira has agreed to the merger, which was proposed in June. Shomrim has refused.
The plan would create a united, NYPD-trained patrol group the department would supervise and partially fund, a source said.
Shomrim spokesman Binyamin Lifshits says the group is concerned that the NYPD would monitor all emergency calls – including private matters like domestic disputes, which the Orthodox community wants to settle on its own.
But Shomrim’s larger objection is with Shmira, which Shomrim has accused of trying to sabotage its operations by slashing patrol-car tires, making prank emergency calls and falsely informing on Shomrim to the police.
"We don’t sit down with Shmira," Lifshits said of his rivals, which split from Shomrim in 1999 after certain members were thrown out for alleged past criminal activity.
UPDATE: The Daily News is now reporting that one of the leaders of the new patrol has a criminal record:
Leib Skoblo, 33, who appeared with Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at the group’s launch last week, spewed racial epithets and punched a black girl in 1995, court records show.
Skoblo’s victim said he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a group designed to lower tensions between blacks and Jews.
"I think it is disgusting," said Izena Goudy, 25, now a member of the Army National Guard. "It is the same thing if a pedophile applies for a job in a kindergarten."
Goudy’s ordeal began as she walked her little sister to school at Public School 161 on Crown St. on March 30, 1995.
Leib Skoblo’s younger brother, who was 12 years old at the time, started taunting her with racial slurs, Goudy recalled.
Skoblo, then 19, and his mother, Ella, followed Goudy and chased her away from the school screaming threats.
Leib Skoblo finally caught up with the much younger girl on Nostrand Ave. nearby and took a swing at her.
"He hit me so hard it stunned me," she said. "It left me a nice bruise."
Skoblo and his mother were both arrested, according to court records. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child on Sept. 27, 1995, and was sentenced to three years of probation.