Muslims with walkie-talkies and solemn stares, some of them armed off-duty correction and police officers, have started to patrol part of the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in another initiative to rid the community of crime and drugs, particularly crack.
The patrols of men from the At-Taqwa mosque, at Bedford Avenue and Fulton Street, are backed up by police officers from the 79th Precinct station house.
The 40-day, 24-hour patrol, which started Thursday night, received support from merchants, community leaders and residents along Fulton Street who say they have been frustrated for years by rising drug trafficking and related crime.
In a separate action, the police raided 12 locations Wednesday night along Fulton Street, particularly between Bedford and Franklin Avenues, and made 32 arrests. About 15 Muslims patrolled a three-block area early yesterday to insure that the crack houses, as the predominantly boarded up city-owned buildings are called, remained closed. Four to six police officers were on duty at the intersections in support of the community effort. The groups did not patrol together. Working Together
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”I think the police understand what we are trying to do,” said Imam Siraj Wahhaj, the spiritual leader of the mosque. ”They have been very supportive. I think the best equation for ridding ourselves of drugs is when the police and community work together.”
”If they can get the drug dealers out, we can keep them out,” he said. ”We’re doing this step by step, block by block. We hope this will give people hope.” Deputy Chief Thomas Gallagher of the Brooklyn Patrol North, said: ”We are cooperating with them. We set up guidelines that they could not do anything illegal, and we think what they are doing is a laudable idea. If every community did this, it would make our job that much easier.”
Imam Wahhaj said only off-duty correction and police officers who are licensed to carry and use weapons will be allowed to carry arms. But he added that Muslims, who have a reputation among blacks for discipline and retribution, would defend themselves if they were attacked. He also said homeless men in a shelter at Bedford and Atlantic Avenues would be offered food and support if they participated.
The start of the patrol Thursday night came just before the anniversary of the arrest one year ago of five Muslims who tried to evict 10 people from a suspected crack house after the landlord was unable to get police assistance.
Charges were dropped against one of the Muslims, a court officer. But two still face felony charges for weapons possession, and two others, including Imam Wahhaj, face misdemeanor charges. Their trial is to begin in February.
From New York Avenue to Franklin Avenue, the Muslims received wide support from merchants and residents. Despite the bustling street activity, many merchants, seeking protection, sell their goods from behind plexiglass partitions. The area has the air of corridor under siege , and by nightfall few businesses are open.
George Copeland, the owner of a dry cleaners at New York Avenue and Fulton Street, said many businessess have lost customers recently because of crack. There are many stories about people being mugged at gunpoint and robbed or killed, and crack is usually to blame.
Oscar Bryant, who owns a small shop at Fulton Street and Arlington Place, echoed those sentiments, but he was even more pessimistic about lasting change. Lack of Faith
”People don’t have faith in the police,” he said. ”If you tell police about the activity and they make arrests, the criminals are back on the street the next day.”
Lewis Watkins, district manager of Community Board 3, said many of the recurring problems involving crack houses had been caused by the Koch administration. Mr. Watkins, the Muslims and the police said that most of the raids have occurred in abandoned buildings owned by the city.
”The police are making arrests, busting places, but more people keep selling from city-owned property,” Mr. Watkins said. ”Unless the city turns its own buildings over to private ownership and to community groups to manage, these people are going to keep coming back in.”
A version of this article appears in print on Jan. 23, 1988, Section 1, Page 29 of the National edition with the headline: Muslims Start Patrol to Fight Crack in Brooklyn.