A Jewish man is in custody after video showed him and a mob of fellow Brooklynites swarm an NYPD traffic enforcement agent, then harass and taunt the man as he tried to tow away their friend’s car.
Yisroel Friedland was arrested Monday, Jan. 14, and charged with obstructing government administration after authorities said he hopped into a friend’s minivan and sped off as the tow driver attempted to hitch it, causing damage to the truck. Friedland was also slapped with a felony criminal mischief charge, an NYPD official told Atlanta Black Star.
In video from the Jan. 10 incident, several men swarm the area outside 1501 44th St. in Borough Park, where an NYPD tow truck was called to remove a brown minivan that was illegally parked there. News 12 Brooklyn reported that city records also show a laundry list of parking violations for the vehicle’s license plate that amount to over $1,000.
The men, who local residents said are members of the Shomrim, or a Jewish community watch group, are seen ripping the minivan from the hitch. That’s when Friedland jumped into action.
“Before the tow driver could raise the vehicle so the motorist couldn’t leave the scene, people from the community … got in the car and drove off,” Marvin Robbins, first vice president the union representing the city’s tow drivers, told the New York Post.
The men tried their darnedest to stop the tow from happening and banded together to help Freidland, who isn’t the even the minivan’s owner, escape. At one point, the men shout and honk at a black SUV that was blocking the van to move out of the way.
“That allowed [the minivan] to escape,” Robbins added.
The two-minute clip shows the traffic agent keep his cool as he walks to the driver’s side window to try to reason with Friedland but to no avail. After the van speeds off, Friedland’s cronies proceed to heckle the tow truck driver, who is Black.
“What a loser! What a loser!” one man sneers as the man walks back to his truck.
“Oh this is so good, this guy worked his ass off for like half an hour,” another chimes in.
At one point, another man shouts at the traffic agent, “You’re in the wrong precinct. … You should work in Harlem! They’ll kill him over there.”
The same man then threatens to post the incident on YouTube, while the others scramble to snap a photo of the agent’s badge number. Another man is heard telling the driver, “This is my place, this is not your place.”
NYPD spokesman Lt. John Grimpel called the attack on the tow trick driver simply unacceptable.
“This is disgusting behavior against an agent who was doing his job to keep New Yorkers safe while exhibiting restraint and professionalism,” Grimpel said in a statement. “We will not tolerate our traffic agents being subject to abuse in any form, not the least of which is the ugly example we see in this video.”
This isn’t the first time the NYPD has had issues with the Shomrim, however. Since the 1970s, the groups have served as a sort of auxiliary police force for the Hasidic Jewish communities in Brooklyn and have even worked hand-in-hand with the NYPD, according to a 2016 New York Times report.
Shomrims have gained a reputation for being bullies, however, as their watchdog tactics often blur the lines between themselves and the role of actual law enforcement personnel. Last year, a New York appeals court overturned the conviction of a Jewish man who had been sentenced to four years in prison on charges that he was part of a group of Shomrim that brutally attacked a young Black man they accused of vandalizing cars.
“The independent, nonprofit groups tend to see themselves as 21st-century security outfits charged with protecting an insular population whose culture is rooted in preindustrial Europe,” The New York Times reported. “They use modern tools, like Twitter feeds and two-way radios, to chase down burglars, guard against vandals, find missing Alzheimer’s patients and control crowds at Torah processions and other large events.”
It continues: “And yet in their desire to be, as they like to say, the ‘eyes and ears’ of the police, they have occasionally found themselves on the wrong side of the law.”
In the towing case, a complaint was filed with the 66th Precinct and resulted in Friedland’s arrest Monday. Robbins commended the traffic agent, who has over 20 years of experience has a tow driver, for remaining calm and said he was back at work the very next day.
“This is what my drivers encounter on a daily basis out here in the City of New York. … No one respects the tow truck operators,” he told the New York Post. “I think he kept it professional.”
Watch more in the video below.
@NYPD66Pct Here is the video for your case.. since most of the community say NCO-B just hangs out inside the precinct.. Borough Park Shomrim Moshe Steinberg should be charged with OGA for assisting in this unlawful act. I thought Shomrim was suppose to assist the NYPD?? pic.twitter.com/10ErcC9NM0
— News (@TheLocalPressBK) January 11, 2019