PORTSMOUTH — An intoxicated man with a violent criminal history was arrested last Friday night after getting into a car with four children inside and attempting to drive it away, said police Lt. Michael Maloney.

The call to police was made July 6 at 8:35 p.m. when it was reported the man got behind the wheel of the car with the children who are ages 2 to 11, Maloney said. The car was parked outside the Mobil Quick Stop at 803 Lafayette Road and the operator was in the store at the time, according to police.

The man attempted to start the car, using the keys left in the ignition, was unsuccessful, then exited and walked away, Maloney said. One of the older children in the car ran inside the store and reported what happened to the adult who had been operating the car, Maloney said.

Found nearby, identified by witnesses and then arrested was Francis Curran, 49, of 29 Chestnut Road, North Hampton, police said. He's charged with a misdemeanor alleging prowling, four misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and a felony alleging he attempted to steal the vehicle, according to police.

Maloney said Curran did not know the children in the parked car and was highly intoxicated at the time. The police lieutenant said witnesses reported that before he attempted to start the car with the children inside, Curran approached another vehicle in the same parking lot and asked the occupants for a ride.

"We're very, very fortunate that he didn't drive off with four innocent kids in the car," Maloney said.

Curran refused the services of a bail commissioner, so he's being held in the county jail, according to police.

Seabrook police detective and prosecutor Scott Mendes said Curran is wanted by his department for attempted theft of a motor vehicle in late June. He said they will be serving Curran with that warrant and charging him soon.

In 2006, Curran was arrested by Exeter police on charges alleging he attacked and robbed a man at a Mobil gas station in that town. Former Exeter Police Chief Richard Kane said at the time that Curran had a significant criminal history in Massachusetts, including attempted murder and several assaults, including assaults on police officers.

When the Portsmouth Herald did a ride-along with probation officers Al Previte and Chris Barnum a year ago, the officers arrested Curran at his home after he failed an unscheduled alcohol check. Previte described Curran at that time as a parolee for “a violent assault” who, if he’s drinking,” is “dangerous.”

After Curran's breath test registered at 0.13, Previte said, “I have to take him into custody. He’s such a risk to the community, I can’t take any chances.”