Surrounded by police and school officials, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano vowed during a news conference at Chatterton Elementary School in Merrick on Monday to catch the man or men who have approached and frightened Bellmore-Merrick children in recent weeks. In at least once incident, a middle school student reported that a man had attempted to grab him.
“Clearly, there is a predator among us,” Mangano said, adding that police would “hunt down” whoever has been scaring local children, the majority of whom have been older elementary or middle school students.
‘Person of interest’ sought
First Deputy Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said police were seeking a “person of interest” who may have been involved in at least 10 incidents in which Bellmore-Merrick area children have been approached. Krumpter said that, to date, none of the incidents has risen to the level of criminality. In each, a man has spoken to children, at times beckoning them toward his vehicle. Each time, the children have run away and called police.
Police Chief Steven Skrynecki said the concern is that this person, or persons, may attempt to abduct a child. Police are uncertain precisely how many people have been approaching children, though they are focusing their investigation on one man whom they believe may be involved and have released an artist’s sketch of him, based on a student’s description.
Skrynecki noted that more children are approached by strangers during the spring because young people walk to school in greater numbers during the warmer months. But, he said, the number of incidents in the Bellmore-Merrick area has been “abnormal,” which, he said, convinced police to step up patrols in the community. The chief said police want to question the man or men to determine why, precisely, children are being approached.
For the Merrick Kids Festival, held at the Merrick train station last weekend, police set up a command post nearby, and more police cars, marked and unmarked, have been assigned to the Bellmore-Merrick area.