Safe Stop Program in Brooklyn Helps People in Trouble

Leiby Kletzky, the 8-year-old boy murdered last summer, might still be alive if there had been a program in existence like the one announced Monday by the Kings County District Attorney.

Leiby Kletzky

“Safe Stop” enlists local businesses as havens when people are in trouble. Had Leiby, who was lost, had this option, he may not have been abducted.

The program is off to a speedy start having signed on 168 Brooklyn businesses as members.

“The community is coming together by itself to combat this issue,” said Jeremy Laufer, district manager of the Sunset Park/Windsor Terrace community board in Brooklyn. “A number of entities and people are helping to make the community feel safer.”

The Safe Stop program was created in response to the recent pattern of crime in Brooklyn since March. Laufer estimates that in these six months at least 20 women have reported sexual assault.

“We meet constantly with communities at community board meetings and precinct meetings and respond to their needs,” said Jerry Schmetterer, spokesperson for Kings Country District Attorney Charles Hynes. “We’re always looking for ways to work with the community to fight crime.”

So people can identify businesses participating in the Safe Stop program, storeowners place a special decal on their windows.

Hynes said the public is already utilizing Safe Stop. At the press conference, he cited an example of an eight-year-old boy who noticed a Safe Stop sticker on the window of a shop in Sunset Park and asked to use its phone to call his parents.

Though Brooklyn residents are grateful for this initiative, they agree more needs to be done to curb crime.

Community leaders have reached out to MTA and the Department of Transportation about installing better lighting and cameras in and around subway stations, because many women who have reported being sexually assaulted were stalked after leaving the subway.

Many businesses are even sponsoring free self-defense classes.

Jay Ruiz, a messenger service dispatcher, saw news footage of a Park Slope woman being robbed in September. He said the woman was screaming at the top of her lungs, but no one stopped to help. He wished the woman could have had an escort.

So on Sept. 14 Ruiz took to the streets. He stood outside Brooklyn subway exits holding a sign with his name, number and e-mail address. The sign read, “Brooklyn Bike Patrol.” He wanted to help women feel safe walking home.

Ruiz regularly receives calls from men wanting to enlist as volunteers in the Patrol. But Ruiz is picky with who he selects, rejecting those he’s unsure about. He guarantees his volunteers are “stand-up guys.”

“Last night we only walked eight people home,” he said. “We could do a lot more. We’re out here every single day and all we do is walk people home.”

(Written Nov. 3, 2011 for Reporting and Writing Class)

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