ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New York state legislator said it’s time to crack down on the violent “knockout game” in which youths sucker punch innocent bystanders for kicks.
Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Schenectady, said Thursday that his bill would make the violent game a gang assault with a sentence of up to 25 years. Youths would be charged as adults.
“They want to be big shots and big men … so they should have a big law to protect the innocent law-abiding citizens,” Tedisco told WCBS 880. “Clearly, these are not young gentlemen — they’re punks, they’re thugs, they’re cowards.”
Tedisco said his measure is intended to be a deterrent to stop the game in which participants try to punch a stranger so hard they are rendered unconscious, often while other youths record the attack for online sites.
His bill will also include prison time for convicted accomplices who watch or record the assaults.
State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, D-Brooklyn, has written to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, urging federal action against “knockout game” attacks.
There have been seven so-called “knockout” or “polar bear” assaults in the Crown Heights and Midwood sections of Brooklyn since October, police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Wednesday.
The alternate name “polar bearing” comes from the fact that the victims are white.
A 12-year-old Jewish boy who was a “knockout” victim two weeks ago told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello in an exclusive interview that he’s more interested in an apology than seeing his attackers go to jail.
The yeshiva student, who is devoutly religious, thinks a mandatory moment of silence in public schools would help.
“I think this could have all been prevented,” said the boy, who asked not to be identified.
“The boys and teens would know that there’s always a God watching them, and they wouldn’t only be afraid of the police,” he added.
Last week, the boy’s father told CBS 2 that after his son was struck at random by a group of teenagers, one gave “a hysterial, happy shout: ‘We got him.'”
Leaders in the black community said they share the concerns of their Jewish neighbors and they’re urging parents to talk to their children about the consequences if they take part in the game.
“To go around and harm just anybody on the premise that you want to show your bravado is not to be accepted in our community, in Crown Heights, in Brownsville or anywhere else for that matter,” said Tony Herbert, an activist with the National Action Network. “Keep your hands to yourself. That is stupid.”
The latest known victim was a 78-year-old woman attacked a week ago Saturday in Midwood. The victim’s daughter said her mother was attacked in broad daylight by a young man who walked toward her, balled up his fist and hit her with all his might on the top of her head then ran off.
“She had her purse. She had bags from department stores. There was not even an attempt to take anything from her,” the daughter told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin. “It was just a wanton act to hurt another human being.”
Kelly said several victims have not reported the incidents because no robbery is involved.
“I would like to urge anyone who has been victimized by this to come forward and let us know,” said the police commissioner. “In order for us to respond, we have to have this information.”
Police patrols have been stepped up in central Brooklyn in response to the incidents.
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., D-Queens, the chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, is urging a serious NYPD response.
“I’ve already written to Ray Kelly. I want to know what we’re going to do about it,” he said. “These kids need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and we need to ensure that this doesn’t keep happening.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian Angels will be on patrol in Brooklyn, where there have been a number of so-called “knockout” incidents in recent weeks.
“People need to know what to look out for,” Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, told 1010 WINS. They need to get in touch with the police right away, and if it comes to it, let the Guardian Angels knock out the guys looking to play ‘knockout’ before they can do any more damage.”
In Paterson, N.J., police have been looking into an attack on a Bengali student to see if it was part of the ‘knockout’ trend.
“Some black boy hit him in the face,” said a girl who knows the victim.
Back in September, 46-year-old Ralph Santiago of Hoboken, N.J., was killed after his head was slammed into an iron fence. The three arrested, who police said were captured on video, were just 13 and 14 years old.
Videos posted online have shown “knockout” incidents from Washington, D.C., to Pittsburgh to London.
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