Officials have formally apologized to a Schenectady woman who reported her house burglarized and got nothing but excuses from police officers for 24 hours.
Irene Cronin came home from vacation a week ago to an empty jewelry box and a missing laptop.
When she ventured outside, she discovered that her hedge clippers and gloves were gone, too — “which was pretty creepy,” she said.
Naturally, she called police. They promised an officer would arrive “shortly.”
Eight hours later, she went to bed.
The next day, after church, she went to police headquarters in person to try to get an officer to come to her house. Her insurance company said she had to have a police report, and in any case, she wanted police to gather evidence. She wanted them to catch the burglar.
Instead, she said, a man at the sergeant’s desk told her to complain to the City Council and the mayor.
Later, when officers finally arrived at her house, one of them told her the long delay was caused by the department’s “old cars.”
“He said they all have over 100,000 miles on them,” Cronin said.
An evidence technician eventually arrived, and she was happy with his work. But she was left shaken — not only by the burglary but by the response from the police.
“I really didn’t feel protected by the people who are here to protect me,” she said. “The response, that to me was disgraceful.”
Now, police leaders have agreed with her.
Both Assistant Chief Jack Falvo and Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett apologized to Cronin, a week after police took so long to come to her house.
Falvo said the department was legitimately busy on July 6, when Cronin called about the burglary. And the department was “slightly” understaffed that night, he said.
So many officers were out — for vacations, comp time and sick time — that supervisors offered overtime to any officer who would come in. But so few officers accepted the overtime that they could not reach the minimum staffing level, Falvo said.
Still, he said, the department should have handled the burglary that night.
“The bottom line here is we take responsibility,” he said. “We should’ve had a response a lot sooner than that.”
Cronin reported the burglary at 4:05 p.m. Saturday, July 6, according to police records. Officers didn’t come to her house until after she went to police headquarters in person on the afternoon of Sunday, July 7.
As for the excuses the officers offered to her that day, Mayor Gary McCarthy was not pleased.
“I assume the officer used poor judgment. It won’t happen again,” he said.
Falvo spent a week looking into the issue. No one had confessed to being the person Cronin spoke to, he said, so it was not yet clear exactly what was said. Several desk sergeants were on duty during the time period in question, and an officer also could have been the person behind the desk when she arrived.
If the person is identified, Falvo said he could be assigned to take a customer service training class.
“That’s where supervision comes in,” he said, adding, “I don’t know why people say things that they say sometimes.”
He’s focusing on determining why the call was left waiting for so many hours.
“What could we have done to prevent this?” he said. “That’s what we’re looking at now: How can we fix this?”
Among other issues, he’s looking at whether all of the calls were correctly prioritized ahead of hers and whether too many officers were allowed to take leave that weekend.
Bennett said there was also a simple customer service solution.
“Call volume that afternoon was outrageous,” he said. “Regardless, all somebody had to do was call her and say, ‘Look, we’re running flat out, but we haven’t forgotten you.’ ”