Police respond to knockout threat

Yale students and New Haven residents are experiencing the arrival of a new crime pattern that has gained national attention in recent weeks — the “knockout game.”

The game refers to attacks on pedestrians by groups of young adults. The assaulters approach their victims on public streets, hit them and run away. After speaking to the New Haven Police Department, Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins notified the campus community about the violent new trend in an email on Nov. 21. There were seven reported cases of street violence in New Haven this November that could be linked to the “knockout game.”

The most recent incident occurred close to Gateway Community College, on the Church Street overpass, according to Higgins’ email alert. New Haven Police are still uncertain as to whether the reported acts of violence were incidents of “knockout.”

According to Public Information Officer Anna Mariotti, the attacks have subsided since late November.

“The YPD is working collaboratively with the New Haven Police Department and Yale Security to prevent these assaults and to identify those responsible,” said Yale Public Relations Manager Amy Athey McDonald.

Higgins reiterated that students should be aware of their surroundings and avoid isolated areas, especially after dark.

New Haven residents said that exercising caution has always been a necessity in New Haven.

“We live in an urban area, and we have to be careful,” said Michael Kaplan ’86, a New Haven resident and the parent of a current Yale student. “This is one more thing to be careful about.”

Zoe Dobuler ’17 expressed concern that the “knockout game” presents an additional danger. She had not heard of the “knockout game” before Higgins’ email and said it is scary that such attacks have occurred so close to campus. Dobuler said she remains careful when walking around campus at night but has not made any changes to her habits since receiving Higgins’ email.

Kaplan and Dobuler both expressed confusion over the assaulters’ motives. While there is a clear reason for “apple-picking,” the crime trend where people steal iPhones and iPods, it is less clear what a person would gain from punching a stranger in the face, Kaplan said.

Kaplan also expressed doubt about whether the “knockout game” will become a serious issue in New Haven.

“I’m not sure whether the fear is coming from the students or the national media coverage,” Kaplan said.

Sergeant Al Vazquez of the NHPD Detective Bureau shared residents’ concerns about media sensationalism. The best way to prevent further “knockout” attacks is to educate New Haven residents as well as the media, Vazquez said. He explained that the media helps perpetuate the trend by continually covering it.

The Yale Police has not yet determined whether the “knockout game” will be as prevalent of a threat as “apple-picking” was last year, McDonald said, explaining that the email was meant to be precautionary. She added that the YPD’s goal was to encourage the community to take reasonable precautions.

The Detective Bureau of the NHPD is preparing to arrest one individual in response to the Church Street “knockout” incident that occurred on Nov. 17.