Residents of Midwood say they have mixed feelings over news that Agudath Israel of America was given $1 million to place surveillance cameras in the neighborhood — fearing that an organization that discourages Jews from reporting sex crimes to police without first consulting a rabbi wouldn’t protect all residents.
“It’s not right,” said Katherine Martinez. “God forbid something happened to a poor girl — if she’s a Hispanic, will it be reported?”
The cameras, which will be placed outside of synagogues and schools throughout the two neighborhoods, was designed to catch sex predators, but critics fear that Agudath Israel and the Shomrim, a volunteer security force that is poised to take control of the cameras, would shield Jewish criminals from cops. The police are allowed to look at the feed, but only “authorized officials” will have access, according to Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s office (D–Borough Park).
But Michelle Perricone doesn’t believe Agudath Israel would doctor or alter the surveillance footage — especially since cops will be able to look at the feed.
“As long as the police are involved in the actual surveillance, It will be fine.” Perricone said. “Orthodox Jews just don’t like to talk about abuse.”
Orthodox residents polled outside the Avenue J station had nothing but praise for Agudath Israel’s camera project — but wouldn’t talk about the group’s practice of “mesirah,” a code that frowns upon Jews handing fellow Jews to secular authorities unless a rabbi thinks the criminal complaints are credible.
“Safety is always good,” said one Orthodox Jew, who only identified himself as Simon.
Shlomie Katz agreed.
“It’s a good idea because a lot can happen after midnight on these streets,” Katz said. “But that’s a solid chunk of money.”Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg