By Brendan Browne
A Forest Hills rabbi has several Queens community leaders upset about his plan to organize armed civilian patrols of Jewish neighborhoods in Queens in order to protect against anti-Semitic threats.
Rabbi Yakove Lloyd said the hatred and violence directed toward Jews in the Middle East is spilling into the neighborhoods of Queens and the police are not doing enough to protect against attacks on Jewish communities.
An ordained Orthodox rabbi, Lloyd said small groups of about 12 or 13 people have begun patrolling parts of Forest Hills and Kew Gardens Hills with handguns, shotguns, and baseball bats and will continue doing so three times a week.
Lloyd, the founder of the Jewish Defense Group in 1985 at 107-23 71st Road, said the patrols began July 4, but police said they were keeping an eye out for the group but saw no such patrols.
One group of patrollers will start in Forest Hills at 71st Street and Continental Avenue and head south to Union Turnpike, Lloyd said. Other patrollers will meet at Main Street and Jewel Avenue and walk south to Union Turnpike in Kew Gardens Hills, he said.
The patrols have raised a few eyebrows among Jewish leaders, Queens politicians, and police officers, who fear armed civilians can create unsafe situations.
City council members Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) and Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) have criticized the plan and the police have echoed their sentiments.
“It is hard for me to believe that unleashing untrained armed citizens on our neighborhood is an intelligent way to address the fear of terrorist attacks,” said Katz.
“We don’t want people running around with guns and we don’t want an accident,” said Capt. Charles Stravalle of the 112th Precinct in Forest Hills. “It’s not needed. People should join the police regulated programs.”
Lloyd, who backed down on plans to patrol areas in Brooklyn last month, said such concerns result from a misunderstanding of the patrols. All of the handguns used will be licensed, the shotguns will not be loaded, and patrollers will call police if a situation is serious, he said.
The patrollers’ primary goal is to prevent vandalism such as graffiti and smashed windows in Jewish facilities, he said. If there is a bomb threat or they suspect a significant attack against a Jewish facility, they will call the police, Lloyd added.
He first had the idea earlier this year when he saw a man suspected of conspiring in the 1993 World Trade bombing interviewed on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” The man said some of the terrorists involved in the 1993 bombing also spoke of attacking Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
“To me that was a code word that they will be attacking Jews” in New York, Lloyd said. “Our goals is prevention and deterrence.”
He said his plans to patrol Brooklyn spurred police to increase surveillance around Jewish neighborhoods and to organize supervised civilian patrols in those areas as well. If police agreed to beef up protection around Jewish facilities in Queens, Lloyd said he would cancel the patrols.
Frank Kotnik, head of the Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol, or GCOP, which patrols areas in Glendale, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Middle Village, and Forest Hills, urged civilians concerned about safety in their neighborhoods to join a police supervised organization like GCOP.
“I can understand (Lloyd’s) concerns, but I don’t think it warrants having armed patrols out there. They should join GCOP,” said Kotnik.
Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.