Hawzah News Agency (New York, America) - Mr Ali is among the first 30 members of the all-volunteer Muslim Community Patrol & Services that is preparing to operate in neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, with a goal of growing its fleet of two cars to five by the end of the month and eventually expanding citywide. The group recently held a training led by off-duty officers from the police department’s 72nd precinct.
As word of the new patrol has begun to spread, the backlash has been swift, even among some members of the Muslim community who have criticised the lack of information, and questioned the need for the patrol.
Like the Shomrim that patrols largely Hasidic neighbourhoods in Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Asian Safety Patrol that operates mainly in Sunset Park, the new group – believed to be the first of its kind in the country – hopes to function as extra sets of eyes and ears for the police.
The unarmed civilian patrol will offer translation services – its members are fluent in any of seven languages – explain cultural nuances, report suspicious activity, respond to traffic accidents and even help in searches for the missing. The patrol has the support of Brooklyn’s borough president, Eric L Adams, and assistant chief Brian J Conroy, the commanding officer of patrol borough Brooklyn South.
“More than buildings went down in 9/11. Trust between communities went down,” Mr Adams said. “We are building it back one brick at a time, and this patrol is one of those bricks.”
Leaders said the group is self-funded and used donations to purchase the cars and navy blue uniforms for its members, many of whom are involved with the Muslim Community Centre in Sunset Park.
Volunteers plan to work in shifts, watching over arrival and dismissal times at three Islamic schools in Brooklyn and conducting patrols from 5pm to 11pm, mostly near mosques and bus and subway stops in Bay Ridge and Sunset Park, where there are large Muslim populations. It will also link residents to food pantries, mentorship programs and counselling services. It aims to serve anyone who needs help, Mr Rabah said, not just Muslims.
Mr Rabah, a funeral organiser for the Janazah Project, said the Muslim Community Patrol had been a long-held dream of his and others. A series of sensational 2016 attacks, including the murder of an imam and his assistant in Queens and an arson attack on a Muslim woman dressed in traditional garb in Manhattan, gave energy to their cause, he said.
New York City is home to an estimated 769,000 Muslims. They make up about 9 per cent of the city’s population, but represent 22 per cent of all Muslims living in the United States, according to Muslims for American Progress.
In 2017 in the city, there were 14 reported anti-Muslim bias incidents, according to the police department’s annual report. Last year, there were 14 bias-crime incidents recorded against Muslims during the first three quarters of the year, the most recent data available.