Schenectady police are losing ground in their search for criminals who never showed up in court.
Three years ago, they began working on a 20-year backlog of unserved warrants. At the time, they hadn’t found 200 residents accused of felonies and another 800 accused of misdemeanors. Most were suspects who never turned themselves in and could not be found by police.
Since 2008, the police changed their policies, gave patrol officers packets of warrants to serve on a regular basis, searched for new addresses of long-lost suspects and even eliminated warrants that were so old they had passed the statute of limitations.
But now they’re looking for even more people than when they started.
They need to find 247 suspected felons, as well as trying to serve 918 misdemeanor warrants. Some date back to 1990. Many more are new: more than half of the felonies are from the past 20 months.
“It’s a continuing challenge,” said Assistant Police Chief Patrick Leguire.
One detective’s only assignment is to investigate aggravated assaults related to domestic violence, and he has personally taken on the warrants associated with those assaults.
“Many times he’ll go out and specifically look for offenders,” Leguire said.
The department also does warrant sweeps when it receives grants for the special operations.
“We definitely do those from time to time,” Leguire said.
Each warrant represents a case that the police nearly solved. In each, police collected enough evidence to determine who committed the crime, and a judge found the evidence persuasive enough to sign a warrant calling for the suspect’s arrest.
But the suspect was never found.
The problem was brought to light in 2008 when then-City Councilman Gary McCarthy asked for a detailed accounting of the department’s unserved warrants. McCarthy is an investigator for the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office, although he is now on a leave of absence to run the city as acting mayor.
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