MERRICK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police are stepping up patrols around schools in two Nassau County communities after several attempted lurings were reported this month.
Nassau County Deputy Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs there have been a total of 10 luring incidents in the past several weeks in Bellmore and Merrick.
“Clearly, there is a predator among us,” Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said Monday.
As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, kids are being warned to keep their guard up walking home from school in the Merrick and Bellmore school districts.
In the most recent case on Friday and just one block from school, the man tried to grab an eighth grader by the arm, Gusoff reported.
In four incidents, middle school students were either followed or approached by strangers, authorities said.
The reported incidents were as follows:
Friday, April 26: Around 7:45 a.m., an eighth grade boy was approached by an unidentified Hispanic man on the sidewalk at Merrick Avenue and Smith Street. The man spoke to the boy in Spanish and tried unsuccessfully to grab him by the arm. The student ran off and immediately reported the incident to police, describing a man in his late 30s with a mustache, a dark jacket, dark blue jeans, and bushy black hair.
Thursday, April 25: A girl reported seeing a white male in the vehicle described above taking pictures of children as they got off a bus around 3:45 p.m. on Hewlett Lane and Marie Court, using a tablet. The man drove off when police came.
Friday, April 19: The North Merrick School District reported a four-door grayish car lingering near Fraser and William streets as school ended for the day. The man inside tried to talk to three sixth grade students, who ran away.
Thursday, April 18: A sixth grader reported she may have been followed by a white van after leaving a bus stop near Bay and Harbor.
Thursday, April 18: A 15-year-old girl who attends Mepham High School reported hearing announcements of someone in a green car following students home. She said she saw a green sedan matching the description while walking on Lincoln Boulevard around 3:10 p.m., and said the man inside was looking in her direction.
Wednesday, April 17: Two 14-year-old girls were walking home from school around 3:15 p.m. on Wyckoff Avenue in Bellmore , when a small red four-door vehicle slowed down and the driver rolled down his window and headed toward them. The girls ran, and the driver made a U-turn and left. He was described as a white male around 40, with a thin build, brown hair, light facial hair and circular glasses.
Tuesday, April 16: A girl told police she and another female were walking home around 3:15 p.m. near Camp and Richard avenues in North Merrick, when a white man around 30 to 35 years old approached in a dark green or black vehicle. He made a waving gesture and called the girls over.
Sunday, April 14: Someone drove a white minivan slowly past a 12-year-old girl and a group of friends as they rode bikes on Jeffrey Drive in North Bellmore. The driver, described as a man around 40 with dark skin, drove by slowly and stared at the children, before driving off down Melvin Drive.
Wednesday, April 10: Around 7:43 a.m., an eighth grade boy from Grand Avenue Middle School was walking to school when he was approached by a man driving an “old, beat-up green four-door sedan.” The driver was described as a Hispanic male in his mid-20s with black hair and short facial hair. The driver slowed down, waved the student to approach, and rolled down his window. The boy ran back home.
Wednesday, April 3: A 14-year-old girl said while walking home around 3 p.m., a white pickup truck being driven by a white male in his late 30s pulled up near Beltagh and Jefferson avenues in Bellmore. The man appeared to take a picture of the girls with his cell phone camera, police said.
Authorities have released a composite sketch of a person of interest in connection with some of the incidents.
The man believed to be involved in most of the incidents has been seen on foot and in various cars, including a four-door grey car, a white van, a white pickup truck and a dark green sedan. He’s spoken to students in both Spanish and English, Gusoff reported.
“In one case, there was conversation where he asked two girls to come to the car. In another case, he waved and motioned to the children to come to the car,” Chief of Department Steven Skrynecki said.
“At this point in time we have about six detectives that are working around the clock trying to find this individual,” said Skrynecki. “We’re not exactly sure of his motives at this time.”
“This type of concentration in this area is abnormal and very concerning to us,” Skrynecki added.
Police have saturated the area with both marked and unmarked patrol cars equipped with license plate readers that can quickly scan and sort through 20,000 plates in a week.
“We’ll be looking for plates that are routinely appearing in the community that may not be from the community,” Krumpter told CBS 2’s Gusoff.
Police increased patrols over the weekend during the Merrick Chamber’s Kids Fest and security will remain heightened in the area as a precaution.
Mother Michelle Frazone said she is keeping her young daughter under constant watch.
“You rob them a little bit of their childhood,” she told WCBS 880’s Xirinachs. “You have to explain in detail what could happen.”
Teachers are reviewing stranger danger lessons and parents are being asked to have that difficult conversation with their kids, too.
“It is upsetting but I think the responsible thing to do at this point is to try to educate the children as much as possible,” Merrick parent Dominique Torino told CBS 2’s Gusoff.
“I don’t want them to be frightened to do stuff, but at the same time just be aware of your surroundings,” PTA president Sigal Negrin added.
In all the cases, the students kept walking or ran away. Police have urged students to call 911 if it happens again.
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