NORTH BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Police say a man is targeting female runners at a park on Long Island.
The suspect is accused of groping women in Belmont Lake State Park in Suffolk County.
“You’ve got to be careful and that is why we are out, my family is here together, we aren’t going out one by one. I think when you are single, when you’re by yourself, you’re more vulnerable,” said parkgoer Michael Lorusso.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, it is a beautiful park filled with families who enjoy walking around the lake, jogging, biking and picnicking. That’s why parkgoers were so unnerved by reports of the stalker trying to grab and grope women along the scenic, quiet trails.
“If you can walk here with someone else, it is better than walking by yourself because, you never know if the guy is very strong he can attack and knock you down,” Haydee Rivera said.
The Riveras of Massapequa enjoy the park as a family and heed common sense warnings to walk with a partner, wear a whistle, and be alert.
The park’s many trails can be secluded and that, according to police, could have been the incentive for a male suspect on a bicycle thought to be behind two separate attacks on women this week.
Police said the suspect grabbed each lone woman by the arm. One was able to struggle out of his clutches, but the other was pushed to the ground, pummeled and forcibly groped, McLogan said.
“New York State Park Police are investigating reports of a male who allegedly forcibly touched females on two separate occasions,” New York State Parks Public Information Officer Randy Simons said in a statement. “Park Police have increased its presence in the area with both visible patrols and surveillance by plain clothes officers.”
Families said they want to remain vigilant to help park police catch the predator.
“It is upsetting. It’s a beautiful park. And it could happen anywhere, not just Belmont Lake State Park, Long Island” said parkgoer Al Gosline.
Police described the suspect as a Hispanic male with a thin build and spiky hair, he has medium length sideburns, and wore a red t-shirt with plaid shorts, and Nike sneakers. In each incident, he was scared off when the women began screaming, McLogan reported.