WYANDANCH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A senior citizen convicted of prior sex offenses was behind bars Tuesday night, after police said he was caught repeatedly stalking girls as young as 6 years old in a Long Island neighborhood.
Jeffrey Bernstein has been charged with three counts of stalking, three counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of public lewdness.
In some cases, Bernstein reportedly used fake stories of needing help and being lost. In others, police said he tried luring children with food or candy.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, police said Bernstein circled blocks for hours on end – parking near a Wyandanch church camp and luridly targeting young bicycle riders.
“He was riding around for a while, probably stalking the kids, and then he tried to bring them to the car — saying he has Pringles for them,” said Barbie Ervin, the mother of an 11-year-old who reported being offered Pringles.
The children were not enticed and alerted their parents.
“He was acting strange,” one of the children said.
Police answered 911 calls and arrested Bernstein, 74, of North Babylon. Bernstein maintains his innocence.
Police alleged on one occasion, Bernstein even exposed himself to children.
“I think what you have here is a sexual predator who they stopped just before he was about to commit the crime of abducting a child,” said Laura Ahearn of The Crime Victims Center.
Parents for Megan’s Law and The Crime Victims Center said Bernstein is a Level 2 sex offender. No stranger to police, he was arrested in 2010 and convicted of trying to lure a young girl into his car.
At that time, Bernstein lived in Seaford and spent six months in jail, followed by five years’ probation.
“Same M.O. — he’s out on the street and looking for kids, and it’s summertime and lots of kids out, so the parents of these young children who reported it did the right thing,” Ahearn said.
Yakimma Murphy, aunt of a 6-year-old and an 11-year-old, said she was proud of the kids.
“Very proud — they did what they had to do,” Murphy said. “It’s crazy; shouldn’t be nobody doing what that guy is doing. You hear about things like that in Lifetime movies.”
Police credited the community.
“One of them took a picture of the license plate,” Ervin said. “God forbid he goes on another block and kidnaps a kid. We had information to give to the police.”
Bernstein was arraigned in Central Islip Tuesday. Prosecutors are already urging the courts this time around to punish the alleged child predator and serial stalker to the fullest extent of the law.