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Police Step Up Patrols as Investigation into 'Knockout' Attacks Continues

By Sonja Sharp | November 22, 2013 9:04am
 Police released surveillance images of men they are seeking in connection to an attack on a Hasidic teen Nov. 10, 2013.
Police released surveillance images of men they are seeking in connection to an attack on a Hasidic teen Nov. 10, 2013.
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CROWN HEIGHTS — Police are investigating the troubling spate of attacks in central Brooklyn that targeted at least nine people including an Orthodox teenager and an elderly woman — but sources say it's not clear whether they were part of the nationwide "knockout" game.

Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon, the new commanding officer of the 71st Precinct, spoke about the attacks at length at a community council meeting Thursday night.

"One person had a stick swung at them, another had a cone thrown at him, a youth was punched in the face, we had somebody with their head pushed and we had an individual that was sort of mushed in the face with a plastic bag," Fitzgibbon said.

The latest incidents include attacks on a 19-year-old Hasidic man who was punched in the face by a group of eight teens in Crown Heights Nov. 10 and a 78-year-old woman who was hit over the head in Midwood on Nov. 9.

In all of the reported incidents, the victims did not report anything being stolen, police said.

The NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating at least some of the incidents as anti-Semitic attacks and is trying to determine if they're related, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said earlier this week. 

Fitzgibbon never mentioned the "knockout" game at Thursday night's meeting but said police are taking the incidents seriously, stepping up patrols across the precinct.

"Right now you’re seeing a lot of police presence up north of Empire Boulevard where these incidents are going on — we have been getting quite an influx of officers to help quell the situation," Fitzgibbon said.

"That’s the part of the community right now that’s on fire, and it needs to be stopped and put out."

Local politicians have called for a swift response from police, offering a $1,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in the attacks.

"We have zero tolerance for hate crimes, and these ‘knockout’ attacks in Crown Heights are no exception," Public Advocate-elect Letitia James said in a statement earlier this week.

Councilman-elect Chaim Deutsch went even further, calling the alleged attacks "an outrage of epic proportions." 

A police source said there are some discrepancies between the recent attacks in Brooklyn and the ones elsewhere in the country, casting doubt on whether the New York attacks are a part of the pattern.

"We gave it credence in the beginning, but [then] we did research on knockout, looking into what knockout actually was," a source close to the investigation said. "We looked into it, and we're not seeing it."

For example, unlike knockout attacks across the country that have left victims unconscious and hospitalized with severe injuries, none of the victims in Brooklyn was hurt seriously enough to go to the hospital, the police source said. Those who did suffer minor injuries declined treatment, the source said.

Anyone with information about the attacks can contact the NYPD's anonymous Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.