After a big fight erupted in 2010, one section of Central Avenue in Albany has never been the same. And to combat the problem, some businesses are going to extremes to keep their employees and customers safe. Our Erin Connolly explains.
ALBANY, N.Y. --It's like clockwork. Every school day at 3 p.m., the McDonald's at 391 Central Avenue and some other nearby businesses lock their doors. And then they come. Hundreds of students make their way up the street, all just released from Albany High and other neighboring schools.
Sheila Richardson, a McDonald's shift manager, said, "It's a really big issue that needs to be solved."
While crowds of people are usually a good thing for business, Sheila Richardson, a shift manager at McDonald's, says not in this case.
Richardson said, "We try to let them in, but they get wild and they want to fight and they disrespect the managers and the crew people and our customers are afraid."
This is footage of a December 2010 melee inside the same McDonald's in Albany. You can see a large brawl going on. At one point, it even appears that a chair was thrown at someone. It was that incident led a number of businesses to actually alter their hours.
Tahir Hafeez, the owner of Albany News Deli, said, "We don't have much time to react at that time. My sixth sense. I see a lot of kids out and sometimes I shut my door."
To help combat the problem, Albany police officers in patrol vehicles and on bikes make their way to the area. They'll stay until the students leave and businesses reopen, usually around 3:30 to 3:45 p.m.
Albany Police Spokesperson Steve Smith said, "So far this year, we haven't had any incidents and we hope not to have any incidents. Our primary goal is to be out there for a presence but to ensure all students get out safely."
But the fact that this is a near daily occurrence is a concern.
Richardson said, "I think it is unfair because the restaurant is open for the public and for us to have to shut down because of children. It's a good idea for safety, but it's not a good idea for the public because I know they want to eat too."
Albany School District Spokesperson Ron Lesko said, "The problem is not that there are a lack of after school programs for kids. The challenge that we face as a school district is getting more kids engaged in these programs."
In fact, Lesko says there are actually nearly 200 afterschool offerings district wide. Common Councilors say support needs to start at home.
Albany Common Council Member Ron Bailey said, "What I'm going to blame is the community. The community needs to get more involved. The police can't do it by themselves. As a community, we have to come together, stand with them, stand together with the school and say enough is enough."
How this problem will be fixed or when it will be fixed, no one really knows. But one thing is for sure, only time will tell.