The Orthodox Jewish police are cracking down on graffiti art in Williamsburg

Five are arrested over a four-hour period for trying to tag three separate locations

Photograph: Creative Commons/ Courtesy of Flickr User Bitchcakes

There’s a new sheriff posse in town, and they’re wearing peyos. Actually, it’s not so new: In fact, the Shomrim Williamsburg Safety Patrol—known simply as the Shomrim, Hebrew for "guard"—has been around for years, serving as a crime-prevention first line of defense for the neighborhood’s ultra–Orthodox Jewish community. There are also Shomrim patrols in others parts of Brooklyn with heavily Jewish neighborhoods, including Crown Heights and Borough Park.
Consisting of about 25 members, they patrol Williamsburg like real cops, and not without controversy. They drive unmarked cars painted the same blue and white as NYPD cruisers, and the badge on their Facebook site is pretty much indistinguishable from the one worn by New York’s Finest. They don’t carry guns, and have no power to arrest anybody, but that hasn’t stopped them from snatching people they deem suspicious, and offering up the occasional beatdown.
Notwithstanding the charges of vigilante justice (and accusations of racial profiling), however, even some of the nabe’s Hispanic and African-American residents think the Shomrim do a good job keeping things safe, by driving around, listening to police scanners and “lighting up” on presumed preps with their own version of a cherry top.
This past weekend, for instance, in the small hours of Sunday morning, they aided the NYPD is nailing five suspects writing graffiti on buildings, and in one instance, on a Con Edison truck. The arrests actually involved three separate events between the hours of 1:10 and 4:45am, according to calls made to 911. During the last bust, two suspects were cornered on the roof of a deli. It turns out they were also in possession of burglary tools. And, as we like to say in New York, that ain’t kosher.