The self-funded group sees itself as a neighborhood watch. But there was alarm after its cars were spotted in Brooklyn without warning, or explanation.
Maeen Ali remembers the worry he felt when he first spotted the “Punish a Muslim Day” screed online.
The letter, mailed last spring throughout England, encouraged violence that ranged from pulling off a woman’s head scarf to bombing mosques. Each attack, the letter instructed, would be rewarded with points. The hate campaign prompted the police in New York and other big cities to expand patrols around mosques and Islamic centers on the specified day.
Mr. Ali, who lives in Downtown Brooklyn, said he was consumed by thoughts of his four children’s safety.
“That just boiled inside of me,” said Mr. Ali, 38, who moved to the United States from Yemen in 1990. “That’s when I said to myself that it was really important to come out and protect Muslims in the community.”
He added, “I have to stand up.”
As it turns out, he will spend most of his time sitting — in a white Ford Taurus that is detailed to look like a police squad car with red and white emergency lights.
Mr. Ali is among the first 30 members of the all-volunteer Muslim Community Patrol & Services that is preparing to operate in neighborhoods in Brooklyn, with a goal of growing its fleet of two cars to five by the end of the month and eventually expanding citywide. The group recently held a training led by off-duty officers from the Police Department’s 72nd Precinct.
“It’s like a neighborhood watch but on steroids,” said Noor Rabah, the group’s 31-year-old vice president who lives in Sunset Park.
As word of the new patrol has begun to spread, the backlash has been swift, even among some members of the Muslim community who have criticized the lack of information, and even questioned the need for the patrol.
Like the Shomrim that patrols largely Hasidic neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Asian Safety Patrol that operates mainly in Sunset Park, the new group — believed to be the first of its kind in the country — hopes to function as extra sets of eyes and ears for the police.
They Created a Muslim Enclave in Upstate N.Y. Then Came the Online Conspiracies.
The unarmed civilian patrol will offer translation services — its members are fluent in any of seven languages — explain cultural nuances, report suspicious activity, respond to traffic accidents and even help in searches for the missing. The patrol has the support of Brooklyn’s borough president, Eric L. Adams, and Assistant Chief Brian J. Conroy, the commanding officer of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South.
“More than buildings went down in 9/11. Trust between communities went down,” Mr. Adams said. “We are building it back one brick at a time, and this patrol is one of those bricks.”