They're being called the "God Squad," a collective of pastors in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, who are working with the New York Police Department (NYPD) in an effort to crack down on local crime. Last month, Pastor Gilford Monrose quietly launched the program, which involves assigning 14 churches different portions of the city's 67th Precinct.
These faith leaders are tasked with building relationships with gang members and criminals in an effort to encourage them to turn themselves in. Considering that the precinct ranked third in the city in 2012 for having the most shootings and murders, the religious leaders are taking charge to curb violence. The idea emerged after Monrose, among others, voiced frustration and sadness over senseless death and violence.
In an interview with The New York Daily News, Monrose described the program, which is based at the Mount Zion Church of God on East 37th street. In the exchange, he dubbed the effort a "clergy crisis response team." The churches involved are tasked with getting to know the environments and key players in their sections of the precinct.
"They learn what type of gangs are out in their sectors and what the can do about it," Monrose explained. "We have to see who is warring with each other. We want to assist. We want to help."
Here's how the Daily News describes the plan:
On top of preaching to goons, the God Squad also visits crime victims in the hospital and regularly meets with police to share what they are seeing out on the streets.
But the pastors pledged not to divulge any of the criminals’ confessions, explaining they need to build trust with both cops and culprits. Instead they hope to convince wanted gangsters to turn themselves in.
At least one police officer who spoke off-the-record with the Daily News heralded the plan as much-needed. The individual noted that people would rather go to a pastor than to the police.
"People don’t always feel comfortable telling us what is going on," said the source.
And since many of the so-called "bad guys" attend church -- or have family members do -- some cops think the plan of having faith leaders get involved in helping to prevent crime just might work.
Not everyone is convinced the plan will be beneficial, but that isn't stopping pastors from implementing it. It will be fascinating to see how the details play out over time.