Questions remain regarding delayed dispatch response time in home invasion

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
- posted Mon., Jan. 27, 2014
A delay in response to a home invasion call in Windham appears to have originated from a dispatch error. Contributed photo. - Contributed Photo

On the afternoon of Monday, Jan. 20, a 12-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl were reportedly home alone at a residence on Back Road in Windham when they noticed a strange car pulling into their driveway. According to the children's father, Troy Quick, the frightened children hid in a bathroom in the home while two Hispanic-looking men kicked in the front door, kicked the family’s black Lab into the basement, and began ransacking the home, looking for valuables. A third Hispanic-looking man waited outside in a car, according to the family. 

The children reportedly used their cell phones to call both 911 and their father. Despite the girl’s 911 call, and subsequent calls from neighbors, officers from Troop K in Colchester did not arrive at the residence until 90 minutes after the initial 911 call. In the meantime, a friend of the family, alerted by phone by the children’s father, had reportedly entered the home and frightened the intruders off; the suspects were believed to have fled in a green Toyota with license plate “799ZOM.”

The family, criticizing the delay in response, quickly determined that police were not at fault, as they arrived quickly at the home as soon as the request for assistance was received from dispatch. Initial reports were that a dispatcher might have erroneously considered the call a prank.

On Friday, Jan. 24, Connecticut State Police released more information regarding the 911 call. Police say the 14-year-old girl who placed the initial call told dispatchers that she knew the person who had entered her residence. “Oh my God, never mind, I just… I’m sorry, I know who it is, it’s my friend…,” police quote the girl as saying to a dispatcher from the State Police Eastern District Dispatch Center, before hanging up the phone.

But the family disputes this version of events. The family reportedly planned to seek the release of the 911 tapes.

There were several responses by legislators to the incident. Windham Mayor Ernest Eldridge acknowledged that the incident had renewed previous discussions to either consolidate the Windhams into the Willimantic police service district, or bring in a resident trooper for the Windhams. But Eldridge felt neither solution would have made a difference in this situation. “This issue doesn’t have anything to do with the police responding, it was a problem with the dispatch,” he said. Even if Windham had a resident trooper assigned, “again, if the trooper wasn’t called, he wouldn’t have been sent out,” said Eldridge.

On Jan. 23, state Sen. Tony Guglielmo (R-Stafford), a ranking member of the General Assembly's Public Safety Committee, released the following statement in response to the incident: "I am sickened over this news. The two teens in this case are to be commended for their bravery. Calling 911 during a home invasion is what we teach our kids to do. The fact that it may have taken an hour and a half for the state police to respond is troubling.” Guglielmo questioned whether the incident represented fallout from the department’s consolidation of the dispatch centers of four troops in eastern Connecticut.  

"Fifty towns and cities from Tolland, Windham and New London counties are part of an overall plan that will eventually reduce 12 dispatch centers to five, but it is unclear how some savings to the state makes sense from a public safety standpoint, especially in light of recent events,” reads the release.

Guglielmo referred to a report compiled by the Program Review and Investigations staff, which shared concerns regarding state police staffing levels and response times. The study found that though state police respond to at least half of their calls within 15 minutes, response times vary according to geography and the nature of the emergency. Response times also have increased slightly in recent years as the number of state troopers has decreased, according to the report.

Guglielmo referred to a 2012 decision by the legislature to eliminate the requirement that state police employ a minimum of 1,248 sworn and non-sworn employees. The new requirement for the department of public safety is to employ “sufficient staff to fulfill its mission of protecting public safety.”

“I now question what is sufficient,” reads Guglielmo’s statement.

But Eldridge felt that the initial 911 call had been routed correctly, and that a misunderstanding had led to the failure to send out troopers earlier. Regardless of the reasons behind the error, Eldridge acknowledged that the issue warranted further investigation. “It is a serious issue. It could have turned into a real tragedy,” he said.

Police continue to investigate the incident. “We are confident that this investigation will determine what occurred that led to this delayed response,” said State Police Commander Col. Danny Stebbins. “We regret this situation and take it very seriously that the state police apparently did not meet the expectations of the citizens we serve and the expectations we have of the agency itself. I can assure you we will do whatever it takes to identify what happened.”

A criminal investigation regarding the home invasion is also ongoing.

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