John Howell, an astute reporter for the West Hartford Patch, called to say he discovered my name in a police report filed in West Hartford. I was considered a witness in a story about a father accused of leaving his child unattended in a car.
It happened last week outside the Sears shopping plaza near the Westfarms Mall. I was getting out of my car to take my son into Old Navy to buy socks when a woman with a child approached me, with a concerned look on her face. She said something along the lines of “can you help me? There is a baby all alone in the car and I’m not sure what to do.” She noted that it was getting hot outside. The high for September 22, 2011 was 80 degrees.
I peeked in the car and sure enough, there was a child sleeping in a car seat. We looked around, didn’t see anyone, so we decided we should call police. My instincts as a parent were to make sure the baby was OK, and the best way to do that was to contact police. It was really a no-brainer to call. Stories of children being left in cars are all over the news, and as the responding West Hartford police sergeant told me, they have even had a few cases right in that very parking lot. I called 9-1-1 only because looking up the main police switchboard number on my cell phone with my son tugging at my other hand to get moving would have been difficult.
As an parent can tell you, it can be a pain in the neck to go into a store with your kids. They are not always on their best behavior when tempted by food, toys, and other items dangling in their view. It would be so much easier to leave them in the car, but you just can’t do that. It is illegal and for good reason. So many things could happen: the car could be broken into, stolen, or crashed into.
My second call was to a West Hartford police detective whom I know, but that call went to voicemail. My instincts as a journalist then kicked in and my next call was to Channel 3. I knew that other stations probably heard the police dispatcher on the scanners, and would head to the scene. Channel 30 is right across the street from this shopping plaza and figured they would arrive before police and I wanted to make sure we had the story.
Police pulled in and moments later the father came out of the store. I did not know what would happen to him, whether he would be arrested or given a warning. I later learned he is a doctor and he was charged.