Article Overview:   At what point do gun-toting vigilantes have a right to intercede in behalf of abused children?  According to New York law going back into the 1800's, the right exists even today.    When child services closes down around 4p.m. in the afternoon, the Citizens Committee wakes up, straps on its guns, and sets into motion a vigilante armed team ready to take on any Beast of Child Abuse--or, are they the Beast?  Find out.


Sunday, April 4, 2004—Ground Zero Plus 935
Gun-Toting Vigilantes Of Vigilance Fight Kid Abuse

Cliff McKenzie

 GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--April 4, 2004 -- They are called the Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty to Children.   In 1875 the state of New York empowered private organizations chartered with the state the right to investigate child abuse complaints, search homes without a warrant, even take children away from their parents and place the parents under arrest.

80% of the  members of the Kings County Society are authorized to carry guns as many are former police officers or military personnel

      And that's what's happening today.
       When Child Services closes down operations for the day, around 4:00 to 5:00 p.m., the Kings County Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty to Children (SPCC) "locks and loads."
       More than 80 percent of its volunteer members carry guns.   They are a collection of former police officers, military personnel and local citizens who believe the government-operated child services systems are failing to serve as watchdog and Sentinel of Vigilance over the children.
      So they respond to more than 60 calls a month, many of them dead-ends or false alarms, about various forms of child abuse from adults threatening children to rancid living conditions that endanger the health of a child.   They investigate about 800 cases a year.

Burton S. Borkan, commissioner of the Kings County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, second from left, with members at their office in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

       "We do more in one night than they do in a month," boasts Burton S. Borkan, the society's high commissioner.
     In the New York Times article on the organization today, the government is not in favor of SPCC.     State government authorities claim that more current laws supercede the 1875 law, removing the authority of the citizen group to manage the welfare of the children and putting that responsibility solely in the hands of the state.
    The SPCC doesn't agree.
     The state argues that it has a emergency response team on call after regular hours, and that trained and screened public officials should be the only ones with the authority to investigate child abuse.
     The SPCC claims its presence in the community--including the use of guns and badges and uniforms--deters child abusers who, if left to duck the radar of the State Welfare System, will continue to abuse children because of the flaws in the government's investigative and policing systems.   
     Numerous cases lately have made their way to the headlines regarding an overworked and understaffed Child Services Program that put children at the mercy of abusive parents or guardians.    Such stories fuel the justification for SPCC to sustain its "community guardianship."
      The question raised by the SPCC is:  Who oversees the government regarding the welfare of children in a local community?
       Structurally, the system is child-state.   However, the SPCC imposes a different structure:  child--community--state.

       It is a "Neighborhood Child Abuse Watch."
       Only with badges, guns and a state charter.
       There are lots of arguments against the SPCC leveled by state authorities.  They question, of course, the legal right of the group to exist at all, or to wear badges that suggest authority, or patches that make it appear they are part of some state-sponsored group, or the screening process they undergo that may let "undesirables" to join the volunteer ranks.
        But, the public isn't crying foul.   The community for whom the SPCC serves isn't parading around its headquarters calling for the removal of a group of gun-toting vigilantes.    For some reason they are tacitly endorsing the group.
        Perhaps in our effort to give the government more and more control over our lives we have abdicated the duty of the community to serve as Sentinel of Vigilance over our children in concert with us, the Parents of Vigilance.

Only children with parents or caretakers are allowed into the NYC playgrounds

       I think specifically of the countless park playgrounds in New York City.   Often, we take our grandchildren to them.   There is a community in a park playground of parents who each watch not only their own child, but other children as well.  If a stranger enters the park without a child, he or she is watched carefully and often confronted that the park is only for children with parents or guardians.
         In such a setting, I recognize that the SPCC exists in default among all who are in the park.     Even though these people don't carry badges or guns, or aren't signed up as chartered members of a designated group, they are all guardians, all Parents of Community Vigilance who would, at the drop of a hat, rush to the aid of any child without question.
         While the SPCC may have some faults and inherent dangers, there is a much greater danger in limiting the surveillance and reaction to child abuse to government solely.   First, it takes away the community's moral duty and social responsibility to protect all children within the borders of the village.
          It breeds Complacency, one of the Beast of Terror's greatest tools.
          Citizens who wait for government to act tend to ignore the early warning signs of abuse until it is too late.    However, citizens who take on the responsibility of being a Parent of Vigilance are quick to respond to any sign of abuse, for they know abuse can spread, like a virus.
           One who takes the Pledge of Vigilance is vowing among other things to take Right Actions that benefit the Children's Children's Children.   This means all children, not only one's own children.

The abuse of children is a community and parental problem

        Child abuse, for example, is contagious.   An abused child tends to take the abusive behavior and pass it on to his or her children.   Abuse becomes a "social disease" at this point, infecting the innocent and unborn.
          Turning one's head to its presence today threatens the future of one's own children, for they may enter one day into a relationship with an abusive person and suffer the consequences of today's Complacency.
          This is why Child Abuse is not just a government responsibility.   It belongs to the community, to the neighborhood, to the Parents of Vigilance, to us all.   It is both an individual and a collective challenge.   
          I am in favor of the SPCC as an example of standing up for the community.  But, as with the welfare government system, I am not in favor of the SPCC taking on the duty of the citizens of the community.   The SPCC can become a defacto form of government.   People can wait for the SPCC to do what they should do--turn in child abusers, rally groups to confront child abusers, set up shelters to protect children that are abused, educated people on how to not live in a abusive environment.

The protection of children remains a Parent of Vigilance duty


        This ultimately remains a Parent of Vigilance duty.    We must all protect the Children's Children's Children.    But in the interim, we cannot let government do it alone.    Therefore, until the Pledge of Vigilance becomes the community's badge, and the citizens all Vow their Vigilance, the SPCC remains our watchdog when the sun sets.



April 3--Terror Of Being Different

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