Windsor Locks police: Property crimes spur false information shared on social media

Photo of Tara O'Neill
A file photo of a Windsor Locks, Conn., police cruiser.

A file photo of a Windsor Locks, Conn., police cruiser.

Windsor Locks Police / Contributed Photo

WINDSOR LOCKS — Police say two incidents involving unlocked cars in a local shopping plaza sparked a series of misinformation that was shared on social media this week.

Windsor Locks police said there was “a lot of inaccurate information” shared on Facebook about the incidents that occurred Wednesday outside Village Pizza and Izumi on Ella Grasso Turnpike.

The first incident occurred after a driver left a vehicle unlocked with cash on the center console in the parking lot at Village Pizza 25 Ella Grasso Turnpike late Wednesday afternoon, police said. When the driver returned, the money was gone. Police said it happened around 5:45 p.m. and was reported when the driver noticed it around 7:50 p.m. A male suspect fled in a light-colored vehicle, police said.

Around 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, police reported a car was stolen outside the adjacent Izumi restaurant. Police said the vehicle was left unlocked and the keys were inside. The car was recovered Thursday morning in Hartford’s North End. Police said Hartford police made two arrests and found weapons in the vehicle.

On Facebook, however, police said people claimed there was a robbery at Village Pizza and a carjacking outside Izumi.

“All crimes are negative no matter the severity, but some have more impact on public safety and immediate threats to the public than property crime,” police said. “We do not want to cause undue alarm to the public.”

Police said the false claims of a robbery and carjacking imply force, weapons used and possible physical injury, which wasn’t the case in either instance.

“It is important to keep information accurate when sharing so not to cause undue panic or alarm among our friends and neighbors,” police reminded residents.

Beyond the inaccurate information on these incidents, police said they’ve also seen recent social media posts from people frustrated with “the current cycle of thefts, lack of a juvenile offender enforcement plan at the legislative levels and what is being done about it.”

While police said there were valid concerns, they referred residents to a proposed bill intended to reduce the number of juvenile vehicle thefts and break-ins.

The partisan bill was introduced on Jan. 28.

Among many suggested changes, the bill proposes the state create a juvenile justice restoration program to hold youth committing these crimes accountable. The bill indicates that the juvenile would be expected to apologize to the victims and do community service.

In some cases, older individuals will have a juvenile commit a crime because the penalties are significantly less for someone under the age of 18. The bill seeks to address that issue with a point that urges the state to add a new risk of injury to a minor charge for anyone five years or older than a juvenile that “facilities” the minor to commit an auto theft or break-in.

The bill also urges the creation of regional law enforcement task forces with state and local police agencies to focus on reducing these types of incidents.