Police are searching for a man wanted in connection with sexual attacks on children in South Ozone Park, Queens this week, and residents in the community are on edge.
The hunt for the sexual predator began Wednesday after law enforcement sources say he forced a 7-year-old girl who had been playing outside into an alley and made her perform a sexual act.
The girl told police that while she was waiting for her friend to come back from retrieving a ball, the man came up to her and asked her if she wanted to play a game. He then forced her into the alley and told her to close her eyes and stick out her tongue before abusing her, law enforcement sources said.
Earlier Wednesday, a different 7-year-old girl was sitting on her stoop in the same neighborhood when police believe the man approached her and grabbed her buttocks. The girl's 12-year-old sister yelled at the man, prompting him to run away.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says the NYPD is stepping up patrols in the area. Authorities have also released surveillance video they believe shows the suspect and a sketch. A $12,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the suspect's arrest.
Parents and neighbors in the community are vowing vigilance.
Shafeek Sohrab said he was "on the lookout for everything" and planned to buy a lock for his backyard gate to keep his 2-year-old nephew safe.
"We all cooperate," said Rudy Garib. "We look after one another."
Another neighbor, Mala Narine, said she was concerned about the child victims -- and empathized with their parents.
"I feel sorry for the parents who have to go through this, and the little child who has to live with this for the rest of her life," Narine said.
-Marc Santia, Katherine Creag, Andrew Siff and Shimon Prokupecz contributed to this report