Schenectady County

Schenectady cops see it all during a daily shift

Editor’s note: Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro and photographer Peter Barber experienced what it take
Schenectady Police officer Sgt. Jeff McCutcheon makes a traffic stop at Albany and Hulett street Thursday, July 9, 2015.
Schenectady Police officer Sgt. Jeff McCutcheon makes a traffic stop at Albany and Hulett street Thursday, July 9, 2015.

Editor’s note: Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro and photographer Peter Barber experienced what it takes to be a Schenectady police officer during a ride-along on a rainy Thursday evening. They drove around the city for a few hours with Sgt. Jeff McCutcheon responding to calls and patrolling the area, discovering what life is really like as an officer.

Drive by Chubby’s on Crane Street or Zaid Food Market on Albany Street in a police car and the people standing outside will disperse immediately.

That’s what police officers experience everyday as they survey the area that Sgt. Jeff McCutcheon describes as hot spots for crime.

“Those are two places where the most people hang out,” McCutcheon said during his shift Thursday evening. “We’re always running from Zaid to Chubby’s and vice versa.”

Even in the pouring rain Thursday night there were a few people hanging out on the sidewalk in front of Zaid.

Lasean Gause, 19, was shot and killed there recently. Three people have since been arrested on murder charges in connection with his death.

“It’s not a crime to stand outside,” McCutcheon said. “But they always leave when we drive by.”

McCutcheon inched by slowly in Car 22 and said, “Let’s do a little test.”

He went around the block, taking a couple of minutes to return in front of Zaid, and nearly all of the people were gone. One young man even left his bike.

“See!” McCutcheon exclaimed.

Then he drove around a second time, and they were back.

“There they are,” he chuckled.

The young man returned to get his bike. He glanced at the cop car, and then walked across the street.

“They return in a couple of minutes because they think we left,” he said. “But we always come back.”

As a sergeant, McCutcheon drives alone during his shift from 3 – 11 p.m. He is required to wear a bulletproof vest, and tests his car’s microphone and camera before exiting the Schenectady police headquarters on Liberty Street.

The small laptop attached to the car’s dashboard allows McCutcheon to search which officers are on duty and see the calls coming in. There are an average of 30 officers on duty at a time and four sergeants when fully staffed, McCutcheon said.

“I’ve been on the job for seven and a half years but it seems like I just started,” he said.

McCutcheon said sometimes he wishes he had a partner, like he did as a patrolman.

“There’s nothing better than to have someone you trust sitting next to you as a patrolman while sergeants ride alone,” he said.

But the perks of being a sergeant are that you can drive anywhere in the city and are not restricted to a zone, like Hamilton Hill or Mont Pleasant.

“Usually it’s so busy you’re going in opposite directions and it’s total mayhem,” he said. “Driving around eight hours a day you know everything in the city. You can picture the houses and the faces.”

McCutcheon said as a sergeant he also responds to a range of calls, from medical calls and domestic disputes to fires and shootings.

“Sometimes people just want advice,” he said. “We really go to everything.”

Thursday was a slow evening with only about a handful of calls coming in between 8 and 11 p.m. McCutcheon said that’s rare, even for a rainy night.

He drove around the city, focusing on Hamilton Hill, Mont Pleasant and lower State Street.

“We want the Mont Pleasant and Hamilton Hill cars to always be free,” he said. “So we try to pitch in when needed. State and Hulett streets are where we get the most calls.”

McCutcheon said they have experienced more issues on Crane Street recently.

A woman came up to the police car and asked him to roll down his window while sitting across from Chubby’s at a gas station.

“That happens a lot,” he said of the woman coming up to his car. She complained of possible squatters at the old Joe’s Bar on 5th Avenue.

After checking the vacant building later that night, McCutcheon found no one inside and that the doors were locked.

McCutcheon also responded to a false alarm at the TrustCo bank on State Street downtown and the report of a fight on Kings Road.

Because it was a slow evening, he decided to drive around Central Park. That’s where they find people doing and selling drugs, he said.

He flashed his high beams down Duck Pond Road and found a mini van parked in an empty lot. He pulled up behind the car with his lights flashing; an 18-year-old in the driver’s seat responded by opening the door to get out of the car.

McCutcheon ran up to the car and exclaimed, “Get back inside!”

The young man closed the door, rolled down his window and held his arms in the air. McCutcheon took his driver’s license — a passenger in the car actually gave him a passport — and he searched their records on the laptop in the police car.

McCutcheon said he smelled marijuana in the car but that the driver was not in possession of any at the time. After running his license, he found the driver also did not have any prior arrests.

While McCutcheon was in the police car, the driver continued to hold his hands up out the window in the pouring rain. McCutcheon laughed and said he didn’t tell him to do that.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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