A city man who police said grabbed a 6-year-old child outside an elementary school and claimed he was a police officer was arrested by police.
The man, identified by authorities as Eugene Smith, 54, of Eastern Avenue, last year pleaded guilty to a child endangerment charge.
Following the incident on Wednesday, city school officials said they are working with parents and students to remind them of safe walking practices.
Smith is accused of grabbing the child Wednesday as she walked on the sidewalk near the Elmer Avenue School at about 3 p.m.
The girl was going to her father’s car and the father then confronted Smith, police said.
“The father was concerned and irate and asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Police Department spokesman Kevin Green said.
The man responded to the father that he was a police officer “getting rid of pedophiles,” according to papers filed in court. Smith later claimed to police he was simply helping the girl.
He fled, but police soon caught up with him on Eastern Avenue near Price Chopper.
Smith was charged with one count of first-degree criminal impersonation, a felony, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor.
The incident happened about a half-block down Eastern Avenue from the school, district spokeswoman Karen Corona said.
The man was first spotted on school property by Principal Sean Inglee. Inglee approached Smith, telling him he had to get off school property, Corona said. Teachers and other aides also were around.
In response to the incident, school safety specialists are reminding students of safe passage measures, including never walking alone and never getting into a car with a stranger, Corona said. Safety tips are also posted on the district’s Web site and will be sent through e-mail. Corona said that, even without the incident, this is a good time for such reminders.
“The weather is nicer, more children are outdoors,” she said. “This is a perfect time to put out an alert.”
The latest incident follows one from October where Smith was accused of calling out to two children, offering them money “to come see him,” according to papers filed in that case. The children refused and he responded by offering them candy. The children then told their mother. Smith was charged in that case with one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor. He pleaded guilty and was fined $100, court officials said.
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