x3By Julie Vogel

Although many did not even know of its existence, RCSP (the Rockaway Citizens Safety Patrol, a.k.a. Rockaway Shomrim) was established about a year before Hurricane Sandy hit. It was initiated because of a rise in petty crimes in the area starting around November 2011, and from that time to the hurricane, Shomrim members were involved in a few arrests.

During and after Hurricane Sandy, Shomrim played an even greater role in keeping our community safe. Immediately before the hurricane, they evacuated sick and elderly individuals in the community to shelters. They immediately set up a 24-hour command center in the Young Israel of Wavecrest and Bayswater. Hundreds of volunteers came to help in the relief effort. There was an NYPD officer stationed in the command center for the entire storm period. Additionally, Deputy Inspector Kevin Maloney, from the 101st Precinct, came to the command center regularly to ensure that RCSP/Shomrim had what they needed.

For two weeks after the storm, RCSP/Shomrim had 24-hour patrols going throughout the neighborhoods. This helped ensure that, although crime increased greatly throughout the area, the Far Rockaway and Bayswater neighborhoods were absent of crime and looting during the darkness. Also during this period after the storm, in addition to patrols, RCSP/Shomrim helped to set up a food kitchen for giving out hot food, they set up generators so households with young children and the elderly could have heat, and they were pumping water out of houses. RCSP/Shomrim also got help from other communities, including Boro Park Shomrim, Williamsburg Shomrim, and the Monroe fire and public-safety departments. They were also able to provide a patrol on Shabbos carried out by off-duty police officers from upstate, which the JCCRP paid for and RCSP/Shomrim coordinated.

Once the lights went back on, the work did not stop. RCSP/Shomrim worked with Chesed Shel Emes to save as many sifrei Torah as possible, and to respectfully bury those that could not be saved, from Belle Harbor, Bayswater, and Seagate. They organized a communitywide levayah held at the White Shul for those sifrei Torah that were destroyed.

During the summer alone, they assisted in 15 arrests. There are 120 volunteers who do night patrol every night in Far Rockaway and Bayswater. In addition, there are currently over 30 Shomrim members who are on call 24 hours a day. Over the summer, they had an event in which they etched hundreds of bikes for the police department, and they have indeed recovered a lot of bikes, although they do not always find the owner if the bike was not etched.

Rockaway Shomrim are the eyes and the ears of the NYPD. RCSP/Shomrim has a 24-hour emergency hotline, 917-727-7306. They also set up a Security Alert department, which lets community members know when there is a security alert or something to be aware of. Anyone in the community can register for this service by e-mailing securityalerts@rockawaypatrol.org. v


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