|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
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
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 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
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
Structurally, the system is child-state.
However, the SPCC imposes a different structure:
It is a "Neighborhood Child
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.
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
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.
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