Sussex Police said the 14-year-old victim was approached by a man in the Three Bridges area of Crawley, West Sussex on Wednesday morning.
He took her to an “adjacent area off the road and searched her clothes before leaving,” the force said in a statement. The girl is safe and unharmed.
Police said the girl was approached just after 8 a.m. on October 13. A 32-year-old resident was arrested in the town at 11:15 a.m. the next day and is being held in custody.
Following the incident, police said they would increase the number of uniformed patrols in the area.
Superintendent Marc Clothier said: “We understand that this arrest will have an impact on the communities. The young girl is safe and unharmed and receives support from officers working with her family.
“We want to reassure people that we have not received any similar reports yet and that there is currently no risk to anyone in the community regarding this matter.
“You will see more uniformed patrols in the area and we encourage you to stop by and speak to us if you have any concerns.
“If you have any information that would aid our investigation, please call us on 101, quoting Operation Lonsdale. “
He added that members of the public who were unsure of the identity of a police officer should request a radio confirmation from the police.
“We understand that some people may want more reassurance when interacting with a police officer alone and when you are alone,” he said.
“If so, real officers can use their loudspeaker police radios to talk to the operator in the police control room.
“The operator can confirm the identity of the officer, that he is on duty and that he is carrying out legitimate policing activities.
“You can also ask a passerby to observe. Officers on leave intervening in a crime in action or when someone is vulnerable, and not wearing a radio, will quickly call 999 for backup. “