EAST HARLEM — Residents gathered outside of Franklin Plaza to rally on Saturday after police revealed that a rash of violent muggings in the neighborhood may be targeting Asian Americans and are being investigated as possible hate crimes.
Just a half an hour earlier, the eighth attack left a neighborhood man robbed of his wallet, money, and cell phone, as well as leaving the victim with a broken nose, police said.
The gathering, which was hosted by Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, was meant to raise awareness by supplying volunteers with fliers, and to encourage strength among neighbors and show support from local officials and community groups.
"We're here today as a community coming together to express our concern at the level of violence that has occurred in the last couple of days, particularly against our Asian neighbors," said Mark-Viverito, speaking at the housing plaza at Third Avenue and East 106th Street.
"We're also here to share information to help the NYPD and to raise awareness of these crimes so people can be alert and also if they have information to share they can contact the NYPD," she said, as fliers in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English were passed around.
According to the NYPD, the suspect has followed the victims, all of them of Asian descent, into elevators, punched them in the face, and ran off with victims' purses, wallets, credit cards and iPhones, among other valuables, police said.
The mugger attacked a 46-year-old man on Wednesday about 6 a.m., punching him in the face several times, and ran off with his phone and wallet, police said. Some two hours later, the suspect hit a 62-year-old man in the face and ran off with his phone and wallet, too.
On Thursday, he repeatedly punched a 47-year-old woman before fleeing with her purse, cops said.
And Saturday another plagued the 23rd precinct, just half an hour before Mark-Viverito's press conference. At 10:30 a.m. a 57-year-old man, also Asian American, was assaulted in an elevator, and his wallet, money and cell phone were stolen, police said. The victim suffered from a broken nose in the attack, cops said.
Police would not release addresses of the attacks, because so many occurred in private residences, but Mark-Viverito said several had taken place in the Franklin Plaza complex.
The suspect has been described as 6-foot-0, weighing 200 to 230 pounds, and was last seen wearing a black jacket and black skull cap or doo-rag. CrimeStoppers is offering $2,000 in cash to information leading up to the arrest and capture of the suspect, whose image was released in a photo sent out by police.
Anyone with information about the incidents should submit a tip at NYPD Crime Stoppers or call 800-577-TIPS.