Baltimore, MD - Prominent Posek: Burglar Alarm Can Be Turned Off On Shabbos
Baltimore, MD - Following a rash of burglaries in his community that had residents focusing on crime prevention, a highly respected Baltimore posek clarified several halachos regarding security issues on Shabbos.
The remarks made by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, rov of Agudath Israel of Baltimore and the Star-K’s rabbinic advisor, came after a Crime Town Hall meeting was held on January 11th as area residents shared their concerns with members of law enforcement. The forum was convened after a rash of over 25 home break ins took place in Baltimore’s Jewish community within a one month period.
Margie Pensak, director of public and media affairs for the Star-K, told VIN News that she taped a telephone interview with Rabbi Heinemann, asking if residents who left their burglar alarms activated over Shabbos would be halachically permitted to shut off their alarms should they accidentally go off on Shabbos.
Mrs. Pensak transcribed Rabbi Heinemann’s words which were quoted on the Baltimore Jewish Life website, explaining what to do if the alarm should go off, particularly if police will call the home once the alarm has been tripped.
“If your burglar alarm goes off on Shabbos, you are allowed to turn it off, for example, with a shinui - for example, your elbow or knuckles. If the alarm company will call you first, before the police would come, you have to tell them it was a mistake, so you are allowed to knock off the phone with a shinui to tell them it is a false alarm. If Yidden would not answer the phone when they call up, the police will not call anymore on Shabbos because they will come and if it’s a false alarm, they will say: If it’s a Yiddishe home, they are not going to come. It is a question of pekuach nefashos.”
Rabbi Heinemann also addressed the issue of whether or not to call police if someone observed unusual activity or a crime taking place on Shabbos, saying, “If you see something suspicious, you should not call 911 or Shomrim on Shabbos, however, if there is a break-in, in your own home or someone else’s house, after you see it, you are allowed to call them on Shabbos, because it could be pekuach nefashos, dangerous.”
Baltimore Shomrim has posted several crime deterrent suggestions on its Facebook page, encouraging residents to keep their homes well lit, alarmed and to install video surveillance systems on their property, noting that capturing a picture of the intruder can help police make a positive identification.
Ronnie Rosenbluth of Baltimore Shomrim said that at least one of the perpetrators responsible for the burglaries has been apprehended by police. The teenage suspect was apprehended by police in connection to a stolen vehicle and was found to be in possession of a keychain bearing the name of a local kosher pizzeria, which had been reported stolen in one of the home invasions.
Rosenbluth noted that while the burglaries have abated since the suspect was apprehended, robberies have continued in the Jewish community.
Rabbi Heinemann studied for many years in Beis Midrash Govoha under Rabbi Aharon Kotler, and was ordained by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein.
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