by Larry Gordon –


This is about selfless individuals who quietly make a dramatic difference in a community. They are the dedicated young men of the Far Rockaway Shomrim who patrol the streets of the geographically jagged terrain of Queens that includes well known mostly Jewishly populated areas of Reads Lane and parts of Bayswater.

On occasion I hear from Jonathan Shtundel, a 27-yeaqr-old teacher who resides in Bayswater and who decided to organize a patrol of this nature after his car was burglarized several years ago. Jonathan sent me some information and we spoke over the phone so that I could develop an understanding of what the Shomrim patrol is all about.

Anyway on Sunday I told him that we can talk about the many aspects of his and his associates undertaking but I would not have a clear or unequivocal understanding of what they are doing unless I ride with them for a little while.

So let me just say by way of background that about 40 or so years ago as a teenager I rode three nights a week in a car with a partner patrolling the streets of Crown Heights in Brooklyn. In those days there was funding for that kind of project because of the constant increase in crime statistics which allowed us some minimal pay for the time. Today’s Shomrim—here in Far Rockaway anyway—it is all volunteer and as an observer can immediately observe a very sincere and comprehensive effort.

Firstly, unlike the old patrols of yesteryear which were basically organized as a reaction to out of control crime sprees, it seems that today’s patrols are largely focused on prevention and keeping our areas safe. The reality is that police resources are limited and the cops simply cannot be everywhere. But it is not our place to criticize them but rather to assist them. You know, if you see something, say something, and don’t just complain.

This area of New York, including our western sliver of Long island presents a unique challenge to law enforcement here. While our neighborhoods are by and large safe and people walk freely on the streets late at night there have been incidents and it is heartening to people out there that there are those focused on keeping the area safe.

Back in the beginning in those old days in Brooklyn people criticized patrols like these as being symptomatic and indicative of an increasing crime rate and therefore that information might impact on real estate values in any given area. But that is probably old thinking. Places like Boro Park and Williamsburg where there are proficient and effective such patrols are seeing real estate values ever increasing. The same is true in Far Rockaway.

So it is about 9pm on Sunday night and Jason and his partner, Sholom Klein, are waiting for me in front of my home. It’s an innocuous plain car with tinted windows though inside the vehicle it is somewhat of a different story. Sholom has a sophisticated radio inside the car which allows him to monitor the interaction between the other units on the street. He also has the vehicle outfitted with a siren and lights that illuminate the car like a Christmas tree if and when he has to respond to an emergency and needs traffic to yield.

The patrol works seven days a week. Lately there has been a rash of car break ins so the men have increased the hours of the street patrol until 5am, probably the part of the day in which even the petty thief’s had had enough and call it a day or a night, as the case may be. The so called good parts of Far Rockaway are bordered by some high crime areas and that is probably the primary function of the Shomrim, that is limit the spillover from those areas to here.

As for the Friday night and Saturday patrols, they are done by non-Jews who reside in the areas and are civic minded and like all fair and good citizens want to keep their homes and neighborhoods safe. More in this week’s 5TJT


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