Not everyone had heard the news that two men were arrested a day apart for secretly videotaping up women’s skirts and dresses at two West Hartford grocery stores. But in a random sampling Monday of customers at both Whole Foods near Blue Back Square and Stop & Shop on Farmington Avenue, where the incidents took place, shoppers were in agreement that from now on, they will pay more attention to their surroundings.
“I’ll be much more aware of people around me and what’s in the bottom of my shopping basket,” said Joanne Pinto of West Hartford, a regular shopper at Stop & Shop.
On Thursday, Aug. 2, Giovanni Geronilla, 34, of 24 Park Place, Hartford, allegedly took video with his cell phone up the skirts of six women who were shopping at Whole Foods on Raymond Road between 3 and 4 p.m. West Hartford police told Patch he placed his cell phone in a shopping basket and either held the basket or slid it under their skirts on the floor to take the videos. Geronilla has been charged with six counts of voyeurism and six counts of second-degree breach of peace.
Then, on Friday, Aug. 3, police charged Rodolfo Tamaniz-Cruz, 25, of 291 S. Quaker Lane, West Hartford, after a similar crime, this time at the Farmington Avenue Stop & Shop. The police report described the crime this way: "The accused was witnessed by employees videotaping customers. The accused would utilize a cell phone camera, place it inside of his back pack and manipulate the back pack under female clothing in an attempt to record their private areas."
The women have not been identified, and police said they were not sure if all the videos were recorded on the same day. The Stop & Shop suspect has been charged with 32 counts of breach of peace and 32 counts of voyeurism, according to police.
Lt. Jeffrey Rose of the West Hartford Police said this arrest was a completely separate incident from the one at the Raymond Road Whole Foods. "It's either a bizarre coincidence or a copycat," Rose said on Monday.
Sheila Koughan, a volunteer stocking the books for sale at the Stop & Shop exit, said she hadn’t heard about the incident.
“I’m glad it didn’t happen in the bathroom,” said Koughan, who added, “We are surrounded by perverts; we just don’t know it.”
Sandra Schell, grocery shopping at Stop & Shop with her young son Meo, hadn’t heard the news, but said she’s not wary of going to the supermarket. “It has nothing to do with the store,” she said, adding that she was surprised this could happen without anyone noticing.
“Well, there are strange people everywhere, but it’s interesting it happened twice,” said Schell. “What interests me is, what goes on in someone’s brain to do this?”
Jeff Cianflone of West Hartford, a frequent shopper at Stop & Shop, said he will tell his wife to beware, but this is “just another thing to think about.” He also put some of the blame on modern technology.
“It’s awful, but unfortunately, it’s yet another trapping of modern technology,” said Cianflone, in between greeting friends as they went in to grocery shop. “Since the Industrial Revolution, it seems we take one step forward and two steps back.”
Paulina Martinczak and Meg Jackson, who work close by to Stop & Shop and frequently buy their lunch there, seemed a bit shaken by the news. “It’s pretty scary it happened so close to where I live and work,” said Martinczak.
At Whole Foods on Raymond Road, Lauren Broder of Vernon summed it up: “It’s not the most upsetting thing, but it’s gross. It makes me realize I need to be a bit more aware of who is around me, especially if I wear a skirt.”
Her husband Ezra added, “It’s a little sad the extent to which people will go to get their thrills.”