New York City’s incoming police chief, Dermot Shea, met with Jewish community leaders Thursday evening as he introduced himself in his new role.
In a large show of unity, over 200 Jewish community leaders, elected officials, and members of law enforcement from all corners of the city were all in attendance at the event hosted by Devorah Halberstam, an honorary NYPD commissioner and a close of friend of Commissioner Shea, in the Jewish Children’s Museum in Crown Heights.
The event was joined by national Jewish organizations, including Stand With Us, AJC, Agudath Israel of America, Betty Ehrenberg – World Jewish Congress, Evan Bernstein – ADL, David Pollock – Jewish Community Relations Council, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik – New York Board of Rabbis, Jason Koeppel – AIPAC, Michael Cohen – Simon Wiesenthal Center, as well as Jewish organizations from across the city, including COJO of Flatbush, JCC of Boro Park, JCC of Coney Island, COJO of Staten Island, Crown Heights JCC, Bronx Jewish Community Council, Queens Jewish Community Council, UTA Of Williamsburg, Satmar, JCC of Williamsburg, West Side COJO, Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition, HATZOLAH, Misaskim, Crown Heights Shmira, Crown Heights Shomrim, Flatbush Shomrim, Staten Island Shomrim, National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education, Ms. Ruchama Clapman MASK, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, Members of Community Boards, Principals from schools, Rabbis from leading congregations, elected officials and members of the NYPD.
Chief Shea, who previously served as the city’s Chief of Detectives, was eager to meet with the city’s Jewish communities to hear about the issues that concern them. The city has seen an alarming spike in verbal and violent anti-Semitic attacks against Jewish people and institutions in recent months.
Following an invocation by Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Devorah Halberstam welcomed participants and the Commissioner, reminding of the grave situation the city’s residents are currently facing, with the rise in anti-Semitic incidents.
“While the NYPD has been responsive with coverage and apprehensions, the problem keeps escalating,” Halberstam said. “It begins with the painting of a Swastika, but it never ends with that,” she said.
Halberstam later presented the Chief with a gift of a crystal Dreidel, which is the artifact symbolizing the Jewish Children’s Museum and the upcoming holiday of Chanukah.
In his remarks, Chief Shea remarked that New York is safer now than it’s been in years, but there is much work to be done.
“New York is in a better place than it was in the early 90’s,” Chief Shea said. “And it wasn’t [through the efforts of] the police force, the politicians, the neighborhood groups – it was all of us – working together.”
Shea said that the improvements were accomplished through “a continuing effort that we will never relent on, and I pledge that to you here today. It is our sacred pledge to the people of New York City, to protect you, to keep you safe.”
The challenge for the NYPD, he said, is “to police with a softer touch, while not compromising public safety.”
The mission of the NYPD has been reframed recently, with the goal of keeping people out of the criminal justice system, preventing crime before it is committed, he said.
Addressing the “very troubling” recent uptick in hate crimes in New York City, Shea noted that hate crime is up all across the city, and that “Brooklyn is bearing a disproportionate share of those crimes,” he said.
Shea said that Deputy Inspector Mark Molinari and the NYPD Hate Crimes Unit have been doing an excellent job dealing with the hate crimes, which they take very seriously.
“The drawing of a Swastika is not an insignificant crime, that’s a very severe crime,” he said. “And our hate crimes unit treats it as such, with the severity they deserve.”
“But the goal is not to make an arrest in these cases, it’s to not have to address these cases at all… it’s to change the DNA, to get to the root causes.”
Shea said that preventing hate crimes would have to be a joint effort by many people and that there is no simple solution.
“It’s going to take all of us working in partnership,” he said. “Prosecutors, schools, other parts of the criminal justice system, certainly the police, and the people that live and work, and walk the streets, on Eastern Parkway, day in and day out, working together, coming up with solutions.”