PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS — Locals are on the lookout for a man reportedly spitting on adults and children near the main Prospect-Lefferts Gardens shopping district after half a dozen stories from victims surfaced on a neighborhood Facebook group.
Many of the online accounts describe a man coming up to strangers — some of them parents walking with a child — and spitting in their faces with little to no warning, victims said.
One of the first reports came from user Amy Martin, who posted on Nov. 19: “About 20 minutes ago a young man wearing all black randomly decided to scream "f**k you," and spit in my face.”
The assault happened on Flatbush Avenue near Lincoln Road, she said.
Ten days later, user Ryan Dillon wrote that he was standing outside Planet Fitness on Flatbush Avenue near Lefferts Avenue — less than two blocks from the Nov. 19 incident — when a man asked him “Are you following me?”
“I answer, ‘No’ and he spits in my face,” Dillon wrote, adding that the man then walked across the street and “quickly spat in the face of a girl who looked about five years old.”
Replying to Dillon’s story, another user of the Prospect-Lefferts-Gardens & Brooklyn Neighbors Facebook group said “it happened to my seven-year-old son.”
The stories continued to roll in to the Facebook group. On Dec. 21, a woman said “he got my daughter and me.” On Dec. 27, another user described being spit on near Flatbush Avenue and Lenox Road. In reply to that incident, a woman said her son was spat on by a man at the Prospect Park subway station, on Flatbush Avenue between Ocean and Lefferts avenues.
The pattern has come as a shock to many, including Shelley Kramer-Blake, vice president of the merchants association on Flatbush Avenue and the owner of a local toy shop, who has been monitoring the incidents since late November.
“We’ve lived in the neighborhood for 10 years and we’ve had the store for four and I’ve never had anything like this happen,” she said.
Police in the neighborhood are aware of the problem, said Frank Bulzoni of the community affairs division at the 71st Precinct, but making an arrest may prove difficult.
Spitting on a person, he said, is harassment — a violation and therefore, not an arrestable offense. Spitting on a child, however, would likely bring a more serious charge, endangering the welfare of a minor, and could result in police action, he said.
But, either way, he said the precinct needs the community to report any and all incidents. Bulzoni encouraged anyone who encounters the man to call 911, community affairs at 718-735-0527 and e-mail him directly at Frank.Bulzoni@nypd.org.
Those who have seen the pattern unfold online are also urging their neighbors to report any instances of spitting in the area.
Seth Kaplan, a Prospect-Lefferts Gardens resident and one of several moderators of the local Facebook page, said residents have cobbled together a rough description of the spitter from those who encountered him, but need police to help identify him before anything else happens.
“There are people that want some kind of police resolve — an arrest. There are people who want to see him get mental health care,” he said. “None of these things can happen until we’ve engaged with him.”
Getting a photograph of the spitter is a priority for Kramer-Blake, who worries the collective portrayal from Facebook — of a tall, thin black man in a hooded sweatshirt — could do more harm than good.
“My fear is that the description could be many people,” she said. “You don’t want people getting falsely accused for something they’re not doing.”