EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect breakdown of emergency and non-emergency calls to police that have originated from the Rivers Casino and Resort since it opened in February. We apologize for the error.
SCHENECTADY -- Twenty-nine emergency 911 calls have originated from Rivers Casino & Resort since the casino's opening in February, according to a review of city police calls. An additional 150-plus non-emergency calls came from the site during the same time period, records show.
Despite the additional calls, Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford said the gambling venue hasn’t stressed department resources.
“Statistics have certainly shown an increase in activity because we went from a blank piece of land to someplace that has a lot of activity,” Clifford said. “It was expected, and what we’re getting is pleasantly on the low end.”
From the casino’s Feb. 8 opening through March 15, a total of about 185 calls to police came from 1 Rush St., according to call logs obtained by The Daily Gazette. Of the 29 emergency calls, there was one for a larceny, another for an assault and a dozen calls for fights on the property. Most of the 185 overall calls involved police doing routine checks of the premises or emergency responders tending to ill patrons.
The Schenectady Police Department analyzes the casino’s impact on patrols on a monthly basis, and so far, there hasn’t been a need to dedicate additional resources to the area, Clifford said.
The only casino-related overtime cost absorbed to date occurred on opening weekend, he said, when additional officers directed traffic around the facility’s entrance and in the roundabout. The department adjusted its overtime spending during the winter months in anticipation of the casino's opening, which has kept costs within the budget, Clifford said.
The uptick in traffic has led to a corresponding increase in fender benders, Clifford said. He attributed that to both the traffic volume around the casino and the implementation of a roundabout on Erie Boulevard, a traffic device with which, Clifford said, some visitors may not be familiar.
Call logs show eight calls to 911 for auto accidents at 1 Rush St. over the casino’s first five weeks.
Clifford also noted about a half-dozen incidents in which customers attempted to pass counterfeit bills. The department is monitoring the issue to see if it’s isolated or a trend, he said.
Most calls come in between noon and 4 a.m., Clifford said, and the department has developed a good working relationship with the casino’s security staff. (The casino is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.)
The 911 calls don’t account for all criminal or questionable activity at the casino, as the casino's own security team handles trespassers, underage gamblers and other issues that don’t require police assistance, Clifford said.
“We don’t see every shoplifter that Home Depot or Price Chopper picks up,” he added. “The same thing happens down there.”
Rivers Casino & Resort officials would not comment on the numbers. They previously said they have roughly 700 surveillance cameras on site to monitor the facility.
Some locals expressed concerns in the days leading up to the casino’s opening that it would negatively impact quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods. Despite some initial hiccups, that has not been the case, according to Stockade neighborhood leaders.
Carmella Ruscitto, who lives about a quarter-mile from the casino at the corner of John and Front streets, said she observed more traffic and cars parking in the neighborhood during Rivers’ opening week, but things have died down since.
“The casino has, so far, not interfered with our neighborhood,” said Ruscitto, president of the East Front Street Neighborhood Association. “I know people have said a lot of nasty things, and a lot of people would ask, ‘Did you hear about this or that,’ but personally, I have seen none of it.”
Carol DeLaMarter, president of the Stockade Association, said she’s noticed occasional surges in traffic or litter on the streets, but it’s hard to say for sure if it’s because of the casino.
City police will continue to track casino-related activity, in the hope of preventing issues like prostitution or drug use, Clifford said. He acknowledged additional resources might be needed on Mohawk Harbor, once additional businesses open there this summer.
The casino’s adjacent hotel is slated to open in July, as is the Riverhouse apartment complex, Druthers Brewing and an office and retail complex called One Harbor Center. Clifford said he could look to add a walking or biking beat, or a patrol officer in a car.
“We haven’t really figured that out yet,” he said. “We’re watching it closely, and we’re probably going to want to monitor it once the harbor is open to see what the community is going to need.”