For week three of our Overnight Heroes series, we rode along with two New York State Police Troopers in Niagara County.
Trooper Dean Scirri and Trooper Mike Schmit are Western New York natives with more than 25 years of experience in the New York State Police Department between the two of them. They're partnered together for a portion of their 12-hour overnight shift, patrolling some of the most dangerous parts of Niagara County. Those parts are known for high levels of violent crime, like armed robberies, stabbings and shootings.
Scirri and Schmit conducted at least ten traffic stops in the four hours we rode with them and all of those stops were proactive, meaning they weren't in response to any 911 calls. "Little minor things you wouldn't think of, they often lead to substantial arrests," says Trooper Scirri. Tinted windows turn into possession charges, missed turn signals turn into open container violations and missing tail lights turn into high-speed pursuits.
Trooper Scirri bagging marijuana. Driver was pulled over for vehicle violations. Failed to pull over, found digital scales, drugs and driver admitted to drinking. #overnightheroeswkbw pic.twitter.com/BBoEQpAZdr
— Thuy Lan Nguyen (@ThuyLanWKBW) November 14, 2017
Traffic stops, one of the most dangerous and unpredictable things an officer can do, are often exacerbated in the areas Scirri and Schmit patrol. One field sobriety tests turns into a family affair after the suspect quickly sends a Snapchat and his relatives show up to the scene to monitor the situation. "Some family members and friends want to know what's going on, so we had to be aware of who was approaching while we were running him through field sobriety," says Trooper Schmit.
This situational awareness is necessary, especially when curious neighbors come out to investigate flashing police lights. While it can be unnerving, having a partner makes it safer for troopers to conduct their traffic stops. It also is helpful when on patrol, because one trooper focuses on driving while the other runs license plate information.
Last year, Troop A, which covers eight counties in Western New York responded to more than 55,000 calls for service and made more than 5,000 arrests.
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