The Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark attended the 50th Precinct Community Council meeting on Mar. 10, as part of an effort by her office to increase community involvement with the district attorney’s office.
Clark said she has spent the last two months since her inauguration on Jan. 20 visiting various community meetings in order to make her presence known to constituents.
“I’ve been going to every single precinct community council meeting, every community board meeting and everywhere somebody will have me,” she said at the meeting on Mar. 10.
Clark spoke about her time serving as criminal court judge and as assistant district attorney 16-years ago. She even referenced some of her experiences with the 50th Precinct in her time as an A.D.A., and spoke of her relationship with Detective Sean Carrington, a 50th Precinct detective who was shot and killed in 1998 during a drug bust.
“Back in my day Bronx Narcotics came out of this precinct, because I was assigned to the narcotics bureau for sometime,” she said. “I was just looking at a plaque of [Det. Carrington], and when we talk about people who have lost their lives, he was a very special person.”
Clark, who stepped down as an appellate court judge last year and faced backlash for running unopposed in the election for district attorney, said that he wants to “beef up” her office’s community put reach progra
“It’s important that the community knows that district attorney’s office is here for you,” she said. “Not just when you commit a crime, but before that, with the unit that is doing crime prevention.”
Clark also addressed the crippling backlog of cases that plagued the district attorney’s office under her predecessor, Robert T. Johnson. She said that the cause of the backlog is current method that her office uses to deal with cases.“There is a tremendous backlog in the court system,” Clark said. “The system we have now is called a horizontal prosecution system and what that is is if you’re the victim of a crime and the police arrest somebody, you go to the complaint office of file charges with the D.A., then one [A.D.A.] takes that complaint and writes it up and sends it to another department, who does the arraignment, then that case goes to a specific bureau.”
The system, Clark said, is not conducive to a fast-acting prosecution system. Instead, she proposed to the city council a new plan, called a vertical system of prosecution, to help eliminate the changing of hands between A.D.A.’s.
“What I decided to do was go to a vertical system where one [A.D.A.] takes the complaint, and will have the case from beginning to end,” Clark said. “Instead of [the case] going to a new [A.D.A.] and they have to adjourn for a couple of months because they need to acquaint themselves with the case.”
This new vertical system will cost more than the horizontal one, said Clark, but she is confident that it will help relieve the government backlog that often keeps cases stalled for years. For example, the 2011 murder of Ryan Ferrer, a 9-month old baby who was murdered in his home in Marble Hill, has yet to begin because the defendant, Martin Quirindongo, has yet to appear in court.
“I testified before the the City Council on Tuesday [Mar. 8], it’s going to cost a lot of money because I’m going to have to hire more assistants,” Clark said. “If they really want me to get through that backlog I’m going to need that money.”
Tom O’Connor, the community council’s sergeant at arms, asked Clark, in the case of Mr. Quirindongo, not to give the now 22-year old defendant a plea bargain but to “throw the book at him.” In response the D.A. nodded and said “OK, alright.”
Clark also spoke about some other programs that she plans to carry out during her term, including her plans for Rikers Island, which falls within the jurisdiction of the Bronx district attorney.
“I think the problem with Rikers Island is that no one paid much attention to it and now it’s like a power plant that’s ready to blow,” she said. “I think the way to deal with Rikers Island is that I can’t investigate and prosecute Rikers Island from 161st Street.”
At her testimony before City Council on Mar. 8, Clark said that she petitioned for the money to build an office on the jail facility, as well as an on-site prosecution bureau. Clark said she is already in negotiations with the Department of Corrections to build a trailer on Rikers Island.
“We will be able to investigate those incidents in real time,” she said. “It’s for all crimes on Rikers Island, whether it’s an inmate on another inmate or an inmate on a corrections officer; whether it’s a visitor bringing contraband into the prison or it’s a corrections office or a Department of Corrections employee that commits a crime or abuses or assaults an inmate.”
Clark said that she wants to work closely with police and commanding officers to help investigate and prosecute crimes more efficiently. She said that she has even taken the time to acquaint herself with Captain Terence O’Toole of the 50th Precinct.
“We’re becoming fast friends here,” she said. “We’ve seen each other for the last couple of weeks so that’s definitely a good thing.”