Luck wasn’t on the side of a would-be thief who visited the Saratoga Springs Senior Center this week, police said.
First, the man allegedly chose to rifle through the office of the executive director, a room with lots of windows where he could be clearly spotted from adjoining offices. Then, when discovered, he fled to one of the last places a suspect on the run would want to be spotted — a conference with more than 100 police officers from around the state.
Such was allegedly the case for 57-year-old Robert D. Horton of Troy, who was charged with attempted grand larceny after being arrested by Saratoga Springs Police on Wednesday. Horton is accused of entering Senior Center Executive Director Lois Celeste’s office during the afternoon and attempting to pilfer her wallet from her purse while she was in an adjacent area.
Celeste was talking with another staff member when she spotted a large man hunched over her desk, which is in an area of the center clearly marked for staff only. Though she was in an adjacent office, she could clearly see him rooting through her purse, she said.
“I looked up and he literally had his hand in my purse behind my desk,” she said.
Celeste and another employee at the center confronted the man, who claimed to be looking for a bathroom. But she could see her purse was askew, so she asked the man to wait while she checked its contents.
“Then he ran out the front door,” she said.
Celeste and her colleague pursued the man down Williams Street, through the grounds of St. Peter’s Church, across Broadway and near the front entrance of Bookmakers at the Holiday Inn. They called out to him to stop or they’d call police.
But as it turned out, they didn’t need to. The fleeing man found himself in the midst of a state Department of Homeland Security conference at the hotel, which was attended by roughly 100 police officers from across the region, some of whom were taking a break outside as the chase neared.
Among them was a plainclothes Albany police officer, who assisted the senior center workers. Also there were a pair of Spa City officers, who quickly took the man into custody.
“We just happened to be there at the time,” said Lt. Robert Jillson, the department’s spokesman.
Celeste later recovered her wallet, which the suspect apparently ditched as he fled the senior center. She said she wouldn’t have even called police had the man simply explained himself and given them a chance to make sure everything was accounted for. She also acknowledged pursuing him might not have been the wisest idea.
Still, Celeste was glad to have the assistance of the officers at the conference at a time of uncertainty. She said the would-be thief violated a trust the community at the center holds dear.
“This is a community of seniors who trust each other, trust the building and trust the staff,” she said. “It was very much a violation of all that.”