Police attack ‘vigilante’ security plan
Police have condemned a move to set up a New York-style private security force in the borough that hosts Britain's biggest Orthodox community.
The force, based on the Shomrim (guards) in New York, has already been given credit on a number of strictly Orthodox websites for having taken part last month in the successful search in Stamford Hill for two missing boys aged six and nine.
But Chief Supt Steve Dann, commander of Hackney Police, said the group had been set up without consultation. He said: "I enjoy good relations with the Jewish community and I am very upset that no-one has approached me about this. It has been done behind my back.
"I see this as a slight against me that we were not delivering a service. I have worked very hard with safer-neighbourhood teams, particularly in the borough's Jewish areas. I have done some work with figures and there is no increase in crime in the area."
In New York, opponents have criticised such groups as "vigilantes".
Joe Lobenstein, vice-president of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations and chair of the Jewish Community Liaison Committee with Hackney Police, said it was fully behind Chief Supt Dann's position.
"He spoke at our meeting and said this carried more problems than it solved. These people are not under their control and they have no authority to take any action," said Mr Lobenstein, a former Hackney mayor.
Hackney Conservative councillor Simche Steinberger is one of the people who has supported the introduction of Shomrim.
One of its senior supporters, who did not want to be named, said: "We want to work with police and even be trained by them if that is possible.
"There are still a few things to be sorted out before Shomrim starts functioning. It is not the finished article yet. "
But Chief Supt Dann maintained that the Shomrim had already started operating and had a patrol car in Stamford Hill equipped with a radio.
"They have no proper training, they could impede police operations and they could put themselves in danger," he said. "We have offered alternatives. We have asked for volunteers to become Specials, fully trained and with all the correct equipment. And I have given a guarantee that they will work only in the strictly Orthodox areas if that's what they want".