London (AFP) – The unusual sight of crime-fighting Orthodox Jews pounding the streets of a tough London neighbourhood after dark has captured the attention of grateful locals, but their ongoing protection of local Muslims has seen their profile go global.
The work of the 25-strong “Shomrim” even caught the eye of US Secretary of State John Kerry, who praised the neighbourhood patrol group’s “remarkable courage”.
Members of the Haredi Jewish community in Stamford Hill formed the group — named after the Yiddish word for guards — in 2008 in response to high crime levels.
Police initially feared vigilantism but now cooperate closely with the volunteers, who helped in 197 arrests last year and even apprehending the area’s “most wanted burglar”.
It is Shomrim’s role in helping protect the area’s large Muslim population, however, that has secured its place in the community and garnered international praise.
The group was called upon by local councillors in Hackney, north London, following the murder of soldier Lee Rigby by Islamic extremists in the British capital in 2013.