Windsor Locks police looking for hotel robber; possible repeat offender

By Calla Vassilopoulos - Staff Writer
Windsor Locks - posted Fri., Aug. 30, 2013
Windsor Locks Police Department looks for hotel robber suspect and continues to work toward building its new image.
Windsor Locks Police Department looks for hotel robber suspect and continues to work toward building its new image.

The Windsor Locks Police Department is still looking for a man who robbed the Days Inn Hotel on Ella Grasso Turnpike on Aug. 23, at 6:38 a.m., according to Sgt. Sebastian Garofalo. As of Aug. 28, the department was working with the management staff at the hotel on video surveillance footage.

“We have our share of crime,” said Garofalo. “I think, like any other town, and with the economic climate out there right now, people tend to do things they wouldn't normally do.”

The robbery suspect was described as a white or Hispanic male in his 30s, 5-feet 6-inches tall, with a somewhat heavy build, bald head, dark mustache, tattoos on both forearms and one on the right side of his neck, according to the police report. The report also said he had a knife concealed in his waistband. According to police, he fled on foot, heading south on Route 75, after the clerk gave him $200.

Later in the day on Aug. 23, at 9 p.m., there was a similar incident at a convenience store in Simsbury. Though the man was wearing different clothes, the man in the video surveillance matched the description of the Days Inn robber. According to the report from WLPD, he had the same M.O. with a knife, and Simsbury police believe he had vehicle access, but there was no further information.

Garofalo said that having 13 hotels in the area and many visitors coming and going presents challenges, but the department has made significant changes to become more proactive, rather than reactive, over the last year.

“We are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were last year at this time. It took the town police commissioners a long time to find a chief and go through the interview process, but we found a chief that is young, very knowledgeable, very educated and knows the job; so we're happy about that.”

August marks the one-year anniversary on the job for Police Chief Eric Osanitsch. The new chief was hired by the police commission last August as part of its efforts to remake the image of the department, according to Garofalo.

“The officers have embraced the change,” said Garofalo. “They have been looking for change a long time, and we got the change.”

Garofalo said that prior to hiring the new chief, the department was “slightly shy” of supervision, due to being short-staffed. He said it took a while to implement a promotional process between the testing procedures and an oral board. He said oftentimes there would be “officers in charge” filling in when a supervisor was not scheduled.

The WLPD retired four officers, of which three were sergeants, in January, which also was a challenge for the department. However, Garofalo said the department is now fully-staffed with five sergeants and one lieutenant. He and five of his “seasoned” colleagues were promoted to fill the positions over the last eight months. Now, there is always a trained supervisor on duty, he said.

“One of the things that we are promoting from the top down and the down up is professionalism,” said Garofalo. “We want to make sure that we treat all the people we deal with, whether they are residents, passersby or residents coming from different states, with professionalism.”

He said the department's mission is to help anyone who needs it, whether they locked their keys in the car or they have a question. The department is also actively working on updating its rules and regulations.

In order to be proactive about keeping crime rates down, the chief has created a Crime Suppression Unit, according to Garofalo. The purpose of the unit is to address “quality-of-life issues” and to monitor specific areas where police have identified suspicious activities going on. He said sometimes the residents reach out to the department and make them aware of suspicious persons.

“We are getting some good results from that. We did it all last summer, and we started making a lot of narcotics arrests. Does that mean there are drugs in Windsor Locks? No, it just means when you use your resources for that, and you are looking for it, you are going to find it," Garofalo said.

The unit is composed of unmarked and marked cars, which are used to observe the areas as well as deter crime from occurring, according to Garofalo. He said the unit divides responsibility, meaning there are officers patrolling, responding to calls and the needs of the community, and there are those who are able to focus on certain areas.

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