Following a Charidy fundraiser that earned more than $150,000 for the Queens Shmira volunteer patrol, the results were on display last Tuesday. “It is like having an additional member in our family,” coordinator Solomon Pinkhasov said of the Ford Taurus that was unveiled outside the Od Yosef Chai synagogue in Kew Gardens Hills. “People used to ask us why our vehicles were not marked with the Shmira name. With this patrol car, you can flag us down. It gives us a more official look.” This patrol car will be used in addition to members using their personal vehicles to keep our neighborhoods safe.
In contrast to an NYPD vehicle, the first car in the Shmira fleet has black and white colors with the Shmira logo. Like a police car, it has sirens, GPS, and a radio signal, serving as a mobile office for volunteers. “It offers deterrence, so that there is less likelihood of crime,” said coordinator Hiski Meirov. “Over the past years, our call volume has increased by more than two and a half, perhaps three times, what it used to be.”
The organization has volunteers in Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Briarwood, Kew Gardens Hills, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, and Jamaica Estates, where most of Queens' Jewish population resides.
Along with the vehicle, the fundraiser provided for radios, vest uniforms, training, and a dispatch system that enhances the work of this grassroots organization. “It enabled our membership to double. We now have more than 40 volunteers and we welcome more members,” Meirov said.
In the past year, Shmira, also known as the Queens Borough Safety Patrol, has cleared anti-Semitic graffiti from a fence in Forest Hills, organized a Chanukah toy drive, secured the site of a manhole on fire, assisted the police in searching for the burglar who was taking money from the tz’dakah cans at Beth Gavriel, and held education campaigns with tips on preventing fires, car thefts, and home burglaries.
“Our dispatch system operates 24 hours a day. When people are not sure whether to call the police, they call us and we arrive on the scene,” Meirov said. Across New York and neighboring Jewish communities, each Shmira chapter operates independently, but also learns from each other and works together when a situation requires additional volunteers. “When a local Shmira needs backup, such as searching the neighborhood for a missing person, members from other Shmira organizations arrive and set up a command center,” Meirov said.
Avraham Pinkhasov is a Shmira volunteer who also serves as the Jewish community liaison for the 112th Precinct in Forest Hills. He attends meetings of the Community Precinct Council and Build the Block events to inform the police of community concerns, and in turn, provides safety recommendations to the public. “The community needs to be on the same page as the Police Department,” he said. “People can call Shmira and then make a police report. Be more alert, and keep your doors locked.” He thanked the 112th and 107th Precincts for their support of Queens Shmira as they worked to keep Queens neighborhoods safe. Special acknowledgement was extended to the 107th Precinct for attending the unveiling.
Shmira thanks the community for their support and has plans to add an additional two vehicles in the coming months to further increase their safety capabilities.
By Shabsie Saphistein
and Sergey Kadinsky