County executive vows to ‘hunt down’ possible ‘predator’ in Bellmore-Merrick area
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Nassau County Legislator David Denenberg, of Merrick, said police would do all they could to track down and bring in the suspect, who is wanted for questioning, not arrest. “Protecting the safety of our children…is our primary concern when it comes to public safety,” Denenberg said.
Bellmore-Merrick’s four elementary district superintendent were on hand at the news conference. Dr. Dominick Palma, the Merrick superintendent, said that all Merrick teachers were asked to discuss “stranger danger” with students on Friday.
Al Belbol, the Levy-Lakeside Elementary School PTA co-president, said, “Once it became more than one incident, and we saw a pattern, as a parent and as a PTA co-president, your ears go up.” He added that cooperation between school and law-enforcement officials has been “excellent.”
String of incidents
The most recent incident reported by police occurred at 7:45 a.m. on Friday, when a Merrick Avenue Middle School eighth-grader was reportedly approached while walking to school by a Hispanic man who spoke only Spanish. The incident took place at Merrick Avenue and Smith Street, according to MAMS Principal Meador Pratt, who immediately sent out a notice to parents.
The man may have attempted to grab the boy, police said, but officials were uncertain what his intentions were because the boy could not understand Spanish. According to a police spokeswoman, the man put his hand out and gestured toward the boy, but it was unclear whether he attempted to grab or abduct the student. The boy ran off and was unharmed. He then reported the incident. Police combed the area in search of the man, but could not find him.
“As a school community,” Pratt said, “we will continue to work with the 1st Precinct to ensure the safety of our students. As we have recently stressed, please continue to reinforce safety precautions with your child.”
In a separate incident, three sixth-graders were walking home from school on the afternoon of Friday, April 19, when a man driving a four-door “grayish car” approached them, according to an email that North Merrick Superintendent David Feller sent to parents. The driver attempted to speak with the students, who ran away.