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Don’t Be Complacent with the Safety of Your Family

on Thursday, December 25 2014. Posted by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

Watching the news and hearing stories about crime, it is easy to say to ourselves, “bad things happen elsewhere, but not where I live.” While in truth some neighborhoods are statistically safer than others, the harsh reality is that one can never afford to let down his or her guard from the potential threats and dangers we all face. Our community was reminded of this almost eleven years ago when, tragically, a nanny employed by a family on the Circle was kidnapped and murdered. (A tree in the park was planted in her memory.) Following that incident, we all took much less for granted and exhibited greater precautions, both with ourselves and with our children.

However, as tends to happen with the passage of time, I fear we have been lulled back into a bubble, into a false sense of security. Our vigilance with safety and security has become lax once again. On Shabbos and Yom Tov, our children of all ages roam freely, alone, and without supervision. During the week and on Sundays, they ride scooters and bikes in the streets while many cars are driving too fast and too many taking turns at high speeds. Adults are going walking or jogging at night, sometimes alone, often wearing dark clothing in dimly lit areas where it is difficult for drivers to see them.

Multiple recent incidents in our community have provided yet another harsh reminder of how important it is not to be complacent when it comes to safety. On each of the last two Shabbos afternoons, a man in a truck with a broken headlight and no license plate has approached multiple children in our neighborhood attempting to draw them close to his car. Thank God, on every occasion, a nearby adult starting walking towards the car to see what was going on and the driver sped away.

With the help of our local Sheriff’s Office, we were able to identify the man as Kevin Craig Cestaric, a registered sex offender, who lives nearby in Boca Raton.  The obvious question we asked law enforcement is why has this man not been arrested? They explained that despite his status as a registered sex offender, it is not illegal to drive on public roads or even to engage in conversation with children. Though what he has done is extremely disconcerting and profoundly disturbing, it does not constitute a crime, they explained, and there is nothing more they can do other than watch him closely and increase patrols in our area.

With the encouragement of our Sheriff’s Office, we sent out an alert including the offender’s picture and information, and hung it on trees and poles around our neighborhood. We are also in the beginning stages of working with our Sheriff’s Office to create a citizen patrol on Montoya Circle. To get involved, please contact the chair of the BRS Security Committee, Alan Berger (alan@iporealty.com).

If you see Mr. Cestaric, it is imperative the police be contacted, even if it is Shabbos. Upon consultation with Rav Dovid Cohen Shlit”a, we are advising the following protocols on Shabbos:

  • If a non-Jew is immediately available without delay, it is preferable to ask him or her to make the call.
  • If a non-Jew is not available right away, you must call yourself immediately.
  • If it won’t create a delay, it is preferable to call using a shinui (unusual manner) such as dialing with the opposite hand or using knuckles instead of finger tips.

This particular individual has been arrested multiple times for various reasons including lewd and lascivious behavior with a child, possession of cocaine, and just this week for driving with a suspended license. Though there is debate regarding recidivism rates, as far as I am concerned, any percentage is too high when it comes to our children’s safety.

When I asked the amazing Sergeant, who has been so helpful to us, “can nothing more be done to protect us from someone who seems like a ticking time bomb to hurt someone?” he explained, “As of now there is nothing we can do to lock this man up. As long as he hasn’t committed a crime, he also has rights and they cannot be violated.” He continued very pointedly and said, “Besides, Rabbi, do you think this is the only individual out there like this? Unfortunately, there are others who have the same issues and who pose the same threat.” After he said that I did a simple search that revealed no less than twelve registered sex offenders who live within our zip code alone.

To be clear, I am not sharing this to create a sense of panic or to paralyze our children with fear. I am writing it to remind us all of how critically important it is to never let down our guard, be complacent or lazy when it comes to the safety of our community. We are blessed to live in a generally safe neighborhood with a very low crime rate. While that is an amazing asset, it is also a liability if it allows us to feel a false sense of security and to fail to take basic, but necessary precautions in how we and our children lead our lives.

In this week’s Parsha, when Yosef dispatches his brothers back to Canaan to retrieve their father and return to Egypt, the Pasuk describes (45:24), “Al tirgezu ba’derech, do not agitate on the way.” The gemara (Ta’anis 10b) quotes Rebbe Elazar who explains that Yosef was instructing them not to become preoccupied even in Torah discussions because if they would lose their focus and fail to pay attention, they might run the risk of encountering danger.

Indeed, when Yaakov left his parents’ home and embarked on his journey he beseeched the Almighty, (28:20) “u’shemarani ba’derech asher anochi holeich, protect me on the journey that I undertake.” When we take a journey that may include risk, we, too, pray and recite Tefillas HaDerech in the hope of avoiding all danger.

Like Yaakov, we pray that our families be safe when they leave our homes and that no harm ever come to them. However, prayer is not enough. Like Yosef, we must be sure to remain focused and not distracted in protecting our children and ourselves.

Don’t let your children walk alone. Always have them walk in groups and preferably with an adult. Don’t walk or jog at night without bright clothing or a reflector. Drive slowly and with great awareness, particularly in areas that are dimly lit, and never text while driving.

Together, with Hashem’s help and by being proactive, alert, and focused, we can ensure the safety of our families and community.

 

 

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