The 109th Precinct sought to reassure Whitestone residents that their kids were safe after numerous social media posts claimed that a suspicious man had allegedly approached local children and tried to get inside a public school.
Residents and parents took to Facebook groups in the Whitestone area this week to express concern with rumors circulating about a man who allegedly attempted to gain access to P.S. 184, located at 21st Road and 163rd Street, during school hours. One rumor claimed that the school had gone into lockdown for a time as a result of the incident.
One post with photos of the individual also began being circulated on social media, with allegations he was previously seen in the area trying to engage young people in conversation.
As the allegations continued to swirl on the pages, officers from the 109th Precinct also took to social media to clear the air.
In a post on its official Facebook page on March 7 at around 3 p.m., the precinct said the school did not go into a lockdown that day, as some parents reported; however, officers were onsite earlier that day to investigate a trespassing complaint.
The individual in question, identified 26-year-old Whitestone resident John Mariani, was then “located, questioned and found to have NOT committed a crime,” the post noted. Authorities also asked residents to stop circulating his photo on social media.
Just three hours after the 109th Precinct posted on Facebook, however, authorities made a new post stating that officers had arrested Mariani for disorderly conduct. He was taken into custody in front of the Terrace Inn at Francis Lewis and Willets Point Boulevards that same afternoon, law enforcement sources said.
No information about his behavior leading up to the arrest was provided.
Authorities also noted that the man had been at an area hospital the night before and released in the morning.
“We want to ensure you that we are committed to the safety of our residents. And we want to keep you abreast of all information regarding this individual,” the post reads. “Thank you all for your concern.”
Representatives from the city Department of Education’s (DOE) District 25, which encompasses P.S. 184, commented on the thread to thank the precinct for its “continued support.”
QNS reached out to DOE for comment and is awaiting a response.
Those with concerns are being encouraged to attend District 25’s monthly Community Education Council meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at 30-48 Linden Pl. School safety is one of the items on the agenda. Interested residents can RSVP here.
The 109th Precinct’s “Sector D” meeting, part of the NYPD’s Neighborhood Policing initiative, will take place at St. Luke’s Church at 16-34 Clintonville St. on March 15 at 7:30 p.m. Residents can also attend this meeting to pose questions and concerns directly to officers.