Lack of stiff penalties frustrates 49th Precinct

The 49th Precinct Community Council, in an attempt to get more involved in the judicial system, has launched a letter-writing campaign.

In recent months, residents and civic group leaders have bemoaned the lack of stiff punishments for individuals arrested on misdemeanor offenses that damage the community’s quality of life.

Residents were particularly upset about Mutari Farouk, a 37-year old who has trespassed in the lobby of 2181 Wallace Avenue again and again.Tenants at the building are frightened and frustrated.

Farouk has been arrested 21 times since 2007, at least 12 times since September 2009.But Farouk has been returned to 2181 Wallace Avenue.

Discussion at council meetings has resulted in a push to keep Bronx judges better attuned to the sentiments of the community regarding repeat offenders.

“We felt there was a gap in the judicial system,” 49th Precinct Community Council president Joe Thompson said. “We felt as though the information was not getting in front of the proper people – the judges and the assistant district attorneys – or that [the information] was minimized, especially during the arraignment.We were concerned about that and about how [Farouk] seemed to be walking out of court all the time.”

The 49th Precinct Community Council was informed that the judges might respond to an effort spearheaded by residents.

“The district attorney’s office is one of the few offices that are really responsive to our needs,” Thompson said. “Then again, [Farouk] did walk away. I think it’s a three-edged sword: it’s incumbent upon the judges, the assistant district attorneys and the community to make the system work better.”

Thompson hopes to invite district attorney’s office to hold a workshop for community leaders who want to participate in the letter-writing campaign.

“This type of campaign is totally up to the community and discussions with the 49th Precinct Council are ongoing,” said Steven Reed, spokesman for Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson.“We have, in the past, made sure that a community, in expressing its concerns, was aware of and understood exactly what information would be relevant to the court. We have also put concerned residents of any given neighborhood in touch with individuals and groups in other communities who have taken similar action.”

The workshop will be held at the Morris Park Community Association soon, but the date has yet to be confirmed, Thompson said.

“I’ve noticed that if you press an issue, things will happen,” Community Board 11 member Joe McManus remarked. “If we don’t participate in our neighborhood, everything goes into the garbage can. We don’t want things to happen like they did in the 1970s.I was always of the opinion that it pays to be proactive. If there is anything we can do to make this community better, then so be it.Let’s try.”

Reach reporter Amanda Marinaccio at 718 742-3394 or

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