Volunteer security patrols are increasing in Orthodox neighborhoods following a new spate of so-called knockout attacks in Brooklyn. And the Jewish Community Relations Council is preparing to offer up to $5,000 for information on perpetrators of the “game” that has whole communities on edge but seems to target mostly Jewish victims here.
“We will be issuing alerts and telling people to be aware of their surroundings once it gets dark, [and] not to go out by yourself,” Heshy Rubinstein, a coordinator of the Borough Park Shomrim Patrol, one of the volunteer groups, told The Jewish Week. He said the alerts would be via newspaper ads and posters.
Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels security patrol, said on Wednesday that eight-member patrols of his group were makng rounds in Midwood, Borough Park, Williamsburg and Crown Heights from noon to midnight to supplement Jewish patrols. “They don’t all have the same coverage,” Sliwa said.
A chasidic man was the latest assault victim after an attack on the fifth night of Chanukah in Williamsburg.
Eli Leidner, 26, said he was approached on Sunday by a man and woman, described as black and in their early 20s and punched by the woman in the vicinity of Bedford and Clymer streets around 10:40 p.m., police said.
The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating previous incidents involving Jewish victims in Crown Heights, Williamsburg and Borough Park, although there is no indication the attacks are related.
The JCRC of New York on Tuesday said it would determine its reward amount for each of the reported incidents in coordination with police with a maximum of $5,000.
“These attacks have dislodged the sense of safety and security that most New Yorkers feel when they walk our streets,” JCRC executive vice president Michael Miller said in a statement.
“We offer this reward in order to help make the streets safe for all New Yorkers.”
An elderly woman was also reportedly attacked in East New York last weekend.
In other American cities, the knockout victims have been non-Jewish whites. In New York, victims of the 10 punching attacks reported so far appear to be Jewish, while the East New York incident involved a non-Jewish woman.
At a press conference last Monday at the Crown Heights Youth Collective, several Brooklyn elected officials, including state Sen. Eric Adams, the incoming borough president, condemned the attacks, and the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council offered a separate $1,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of perpetrators.
On Nov. 23, Brooklyn resident Amrit Marajh was arraigned for an attack from the previous day in Borough Park. Police initially said Marajh was being charged with a hate crime but later told The New York Times he had been charged with assault, harassment and menacing.
At his arraignment, Marajh denied the charges, adding that he has a Jewish girlfriend and has never been arrested. He was released on $750 bail.
Attacks around New York and in other parts of the country have involved young men punching strangers on the street in an attempt to knock them unconscious.
Councilman David Greenfield of Brooklyn called on the NYPD to install security cameras in his Borough Park/Flatbush district with funds he already allocated for the purpose from Council discretionary funds.
“Given the random nature of these attacks and the lack of witnesses, security cameras may be our best chance of making arrests in these disgusting crimes,” Greenfield said Wednesday.
“In light of the ongoing rash of assaults that have left many residents frightened to walk around our neighborhood alone, I am asking the NYPD to move forward on the installation of these security cameras as soon as possible.”
The department is currently deciding on locations for the cameras and finalizing details with vendors, Greenfield said.
In the Williamsburg incident, Leidner and others pursued the assailants, who ran off, and police quickly responded, but no one was apprehended at press time.
“He stood his ground,” said a Satmar community activist, Isaac Abraham. “The question is, if cameras were installed like all the politicians say they were, did they pick anything up?”
The attack was near a public housing facility on Bedford Avenue. Police were not disclosing whether any images of the incident were captured.
Abraham said he believed it was only a matter of time before a “Bernie Goetz-type of incident,” referring to the New Yorker who in 1984 opened fire on a group of young men he said were trying to mug him on the subway. In such a case, Abraham said, “there would be a national outcry” against the shooter.
In a joint statement, Councilman Steven Levin of Williamsburg thanked the local 90th Precinct and the Shomrim for investigating the incident, and Rabbi David Niederman, executive director of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg said, “This is a peace-loving community and one that will stand together to make sure the perpetrators of this act are apprehended and brought to justice. Thank you to the NYPD and Shomrim for their tireless work and being great partners in protecting our communities.”
Anyone with information about any of the “knockout” attacks should contact NYPD Crimestoppers at 1-(800) 577-TIPS.
JTA contributed to this report.