HARLEM — A Queens man has been identified as the suspect in eight beatings and robberies of people of Asian descent in East Harlem and the Upper East Side this month.
Jason Commisso, 34, is wanted in connection with the violent robberies, in which the victims were smashed in the face before having their wallets or electronics stolen, police said.
Police released a video showing a suspect using a credit card stolen during a robbery Thursday after a 47-year-old Asian woman was followed into an elevator and repeatedly punched in the face before the suspect escaped with her purse.
The stolen credit card was used in a McDonald's at 1872 Third Ave. 40 minutes after the incident. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called the attacks "vicious" and said Commisso has more than 30 arrests, according to the Associated Press.
East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito and City Comptroller John Liu, who is running for mayor, canvassed East Harlem Sunday handing out fliers to residents.
"There were people on the street who didn't know what was going on so we have to raise the level of awareness," said Mark-Viverito. "This is about us as a community coming together."
The serial mugger struck for the eighth time just minutes before Mark-Viverito held a press conference Saturday at Franklin Plaza at Third Avenue and East 106th Street, where many of the attacks occurred. In that incident, a 57-year-old Asian man suffered a broken nose after he was followed into the elevator of his apartment building on East 97th Street and assaulted and robbed.
In other incidents, the mugger attacked a 46-year-old man on Wednesday about 6 a.m., punching him in the face several times before leaving with the man's phone and wallet, police said. Just two hours later, the suspect hit a 62-year-old man in the face and took his phone and wallet, too.
The attacks come as the Asian population in East Harlem has increased by almost 4,000 people since 2000, according to U.S. Census figures. Most of the new Asian residents are believed to be Chinese Americans fleeing the higher rents caused by development pressure in Chinatown.
Kelly has said it is too early to label the attacks a hate crime but noted that the NYPD's Hate Crimes Unit was investigating the case. Kelly also increased police presence in the area and placed more Cantonese and Mandarin-speaking officers in the neighborhood.
Mark-Viverito said East Harlem residents of all ethnic backgrounds were upset by the attacks.
"Any assault or violence against anyone is something that everyone should be appalled by. That's the type of community we want to live in and why we are going to speak out against this kind of behavior," she said.