MAGEN Chicago launches community safety initiative with a new neighborhood watch program

Volunteers will patrol in vehicles, observe suspicious activity and report to team leaders, who will contact police, if necessary.

MAGEN Chicago is expanding its operations by launching the Chicago Neighborhood Safety Watch (CNSW) program, where volunteers in unarmed patrol cars monitor neighborhoods. Credit: Courtesy.
MAGEN Chicago is expanding its operations by launching the Chicago Neighborhood Safety Watch (CNSW) program, where volunteers in unarmed patrol cars monitor neighborhoods. Credit: Courtesy.

After a recent community safety and security survey found that 74% of respondents wanted a volunteer patrol program, MAGEN Chicago is expanding its operations by launching the Chicago Neighborhood Safety Watch (CNSW).

“We listened to the community, and our members wanted more to be done to help deter crime. This patrol initiative empowers residents to step up and help protect their neighborhood,” said Chiam Naiditch, president of MAGEN Chicago.

After seven-and-a-half years of training vetted Shul Safety Officers (SSOs) and Shul Safety Greeters (SSGs) for more than 35 local synagogues and delivering over 230 safety and education classes, MAGEN Chicago is further expanding its services. This new safety initiative is modeled after a 41-year-old program created by the Jewish community in Baltimore. It is important to note that prominent Chicago rabbis have endorsed MAGEN Chicago’s CNSW program.

The patrols aim to deter crime through visible neighborhood presence and act as a force multiplier by providing a second set of eyes. Male volunteers will patrol assigned sectors of neighborhoods under the coordination and supervision of their team leaders.

These patrols are unarmed, and volunteers are instructed not to leave their vehicles. The approach is non-confrontational. If volunteers spot suspicious activity, they will move to a safe location before contacting the team leader and calling 911. As volunteer safety is paramount, their primary duty is to observe and report.

The patrols will be highly organized and professionally executed. They will begin with a briefing at a designated synagogue, where team leaders will review local crime trends, conduct safety briefings and assign patrol zones. Team leaders supervise groups during patrols and interact with police if necessary.

Volunteers maintain close contact via a radio system with built-in GPS tracking visible on team leaders’ laptops. As stated, volunteers cannot exit vehicles or directly engage suspicious people. Car magnets identifying the patrols and green strobe lights aid in deterring crime through increased visibility.

“In Baltimore, a similar neighborhood watch program for over 41 years has contributed to significant crime rate reductions. We hope to have comparable positive impacts on our community safety in Chicago,” said Avi Levin, a MAGEN Chicago committee member.

MAGEN Chicago understands one’s vulnerability during nighttime hours. To help with this, they provide their Watchful Eye service for additional presence when individuals enter or leave their homes in the dark. One can schedule a trained patrol volunteer to monitor the surroundings around your house to ensure safe passage and deter threats. With this service, one can find peace of mind knowing a visible presence is watching.

It is worth noting that the CNSW program has been in development since January, well before the recent escalation of antisemitic incidents and the Gaza war. Interestingly, Chicago crime stats have risen to pre-pandemic levels, so the Neighborhood Watch program is needed now more than ever.

The initiative needs volunteers and requires male community members to volunteer three hours every six weeks. MAGEN Chicago keeps to its motto and aims to Protect Our Community From Within through programs like the Chicago Neighborhood Safety Watch. 

For more information, visit: magenchicago.org/cnsw.

MAGEN Chicago is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization; donations are tax-deductible and will help expand services such as the Neighborhood Watch program. MAGEN Chicago is a grassroots organization and is unfunded. Contributions are needed and greatly appreciated. See: magenchicago.org/donate.

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MAGEN Chicago, founded in 2016, is a grassroots non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting the Chicagoland Jewish community. MAGEN empowers individuals to take charge of their safety through education, safety training, and relationship building. MAGEN Chicago aims to continue their mission to "Protect the Community from Within." Community involvement is vital to enabling this organization to continue its efforts. For more information or to help them continue their mission, visit their website at: magenchicago.org.
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