FAIRMOUNT, Ill. (WCIA) — People in Vermilion County are rallying together to keep children safe after a recent incident sent shockwaves through the community.
57-year-old Steven Pawlowski was arrested on Sunday. Police said he approached a group of kids at Fairmount Park trying to lure them into his car.
The Vermilion County Sheriff’s Office said the kids walked away and went home to tell their parents what happened. It was a nearby neighbor who snapped a picture of Pawlowski and his car that investigators used to track him down.
“I’m always down here and I’m always telling them you never know what’s going to happen in this day and age especially,” said Joseph Douglas, the grandfather of two of the children involved.
On Sunday, Pawlowski pulled into Fairmount Park and attempted to lure several children into a car, sparking concern among neighbors and parents.
“It’s just really, really scary that something like that is going on in the small towns around here,” said Hunter Wantland, a resident of Vermilion County.
Now those community members are turning that concern into action.
“Then next was, ‘I’m going to sit outside and make sure that he doesn’t come back,’ because I was worried about the other kids across the street,” said neighbor Ethan Wyer.
The Vermilion County Sheriff’s Office said Pawlowski approached the kids at the park. He then asked them to see if they wanted to see money he had won.
“Everyone’s scared when you hear stuff like that about their kids and their grandkids,” Douglas said.
Douglas said it was lucky the kids reacted the way they did: immediately going to tell adults.
“They know the group of kids down there, and if somebody pulls up here that they don’t know, they pretty much have a good idea,” he said.
“Small towns like this, that’s not where you want to do this type of stuff,” Wyer said.
Neighbors like Wyer said the quick reaction from the kids sparked an even quicker reaction from the community.
“There were probably five or six different vehicles driving up and down this street right here just multiple times trying to make sure everything was all right,” Wyer said.
Even with the vigilant response, the people of Fairmount are still left coping with a fear they’re trying to shake.
“Before this incident, we had had talks with them, but honestly this kind of just says, ‘Hey, we need to go a little bit more in-depth and make sure that they’re fully aware of what could possibly happen,’” Wyer said.
Police said this serves as a reminder to teach children about stranger safety. Pawlowski was arrested on a Class C misdemeanor and has since been released.