Across the country, the “knockout game” has people worried, but in the Jewish community, the fear might be even more pressing.
At least seven attacks, which generally involve an assailant picking out a victim at random and attempting to knock him or her out with a single sucker punch, have been reported in Brooklyn, N.Y., this fall, according to JTA Wire Service. Most of these incidents have involved Jewish victims.
On Saturday, a Brooklyn man was arraigned and released on $750 bail after being charged with misdemeanor assault and harassment of an Orthodox Jewish man. Although police initially announced that the suspect was being charged with a hate crime, prosecutors said Saturday that the charges included only assault, harassment and menacing, The New York Times reported.
The 24-year-old Orthodox man said he was surrounded by a group of men and punched by one. Prosecutors said the victim heard the alleged attacker and the other men talking about the game before the altercation.
“It is beyond appalling,” said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, of the behavior. “It is beyond outrageous.”
Washington, D.C., police are investigating two assaults that officials say took place Nov. 14 and Nov. 15 near the Columbia Heights section of the city. Both of the female victims walked away with minor injuries, and neither was knocked out, said Gwendolyn Crump, director of communications for the department. The victims’ religious affiliation, if any, is unknown.
For Halber, who is originally from Brooklyn and still has family living in the New York City borough, including his parents, the recent incidents are especially unsettling.
Even though the Brooklyn victims were wearing traditional Jewish garb that self-identified them as being Jewish, said Halber, people who don’t dress in the traditional fashion shouldn’t necessarily feel that they are safe or protected just because they aren’t as easily identifiable.
“It can become epidemic very quickly,” he said, adding that this kind of trend must be confronted head-on, with tough sentences for those responsible and no plea options. “The only way to handle this is to crush this.”
In Baltimore City, Det. Jeremy Silbert, spokesman for the Baltimore police, said the department hasn’t had any reports of anything that resembles the knockout game. However, he said, that doesn’t mean that residents should let their guard down.
“We want to encourage everyone in the community to always be aware of their surroundings. If they’re driving or walking and they see anyone suspicious — whether it’s a person or a vehicle — we want them to immediately call 911,” said Silbert. “Callers never have to leave their name.”
Silbert said the department makes it a point to closely follow trends as they appear in other cities and states.
“While we have not seen any of these incidents, we would just ask for everyone to stay aware of their surroundings,” he said. “We know that people — in their community — know what’s suspicious and what’s not, and if they see something that looks out of place or just doesn’t sound right, we want them to call us, and we’ll have an officer come out.”
The Baltimore Jewish Council had no comment on the subject.