Jewish Journal

Shomrim Plan to Withhold Evidence

by Susan Esther Barnes

September 6, 2012 | 10:47 am

Photo by Rama/Wikimedia

I was catching up on reading The Forward, when I came across an article called “Shomrim Don’t Want Police to See Security Video.”

If the shomrim (the private, volunteer security force) put up private security cameras on their own dime, I could imagine legitimate reasons why they wouldn’t want the police to view all the footage. It would be a matter of privacy, and they probably wouldn’t want certain embarrassing events ending up on You Tube, such as a person walking into a light pole while concentrating on a cell phone.

Except – wait a minute – these are public cameras being installed with public money. They aren’t private, at all. And they are being installed as security cameras, to reduce crime in the neighborhood. So of course the police should be allowed to view all the footage, right? It’s all public property, put there for the public good.

But the shomrim are against it, and not because they’re afraid of non-crime activity becoming public You-Tube fodder. To the contrary, their stated reason for wanting to keep the tapes from the police is that they want to withhold evidence of crimes.

Now, the shomrim have long been accused of withholding key evidence from police, including lists of suspected child molestors. But, in the past, they have always denied wrongdoing. This is the first time I know of that they have affirmatively stated, in the press, their intention to obstruct justice.

Here is the money quote from the Forward from Jacob Daskal, head of the Boro Park shomrim, “If it’s a public thing it might hurt a person who doesn’t want to arrest her husband for domestic violence.”

I’m surprised this admission of intention to withhold evidence has not made a bigger splash in the Jewish media. Is it because they are “only” talking about withholding evidence of domestic violence? Is this a statement from the Jewish community that we think violence against women is okay, and should go unpunished?

If so, we are not only wrong, we are living in a fantasy world in which we think this is the only type of crime in which the shomrim will (and do) obstruct justice by keeping important evidence from the police. What if they held back a tape regarding a child molestation? A rape? A robbery? A murder?

What would it take, exactly, for the public to rise up and declare, “The shomrim are supposed to protect the public and help to identify and punish crime. Once they start covering it up instead, they are a menace to society.”

Why are they getting a pass on this?

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Susan Esther Barnes is a religious Reform Jew who can regularly be seen greeting people at her synagogue before services. She is a founding member of her synagogue’s chevra...

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