November 23rd, 2013 | City

Knockout assaults hit New Haven

A recent, nationwide crime trend has struck the Elm City, with the New Haven Police Department reporting six separate incidents of assault in the past week.

The assaults, which have been referred to as part of the “knockout game,” take place on public streets where groups of adolescents attack seemingly random pedestrians and quickly flee the scene in a sort of hit-and-run sequence. The ultimate motive of the assailants is simply to hit, and potentially “knock out,” their targets without robbing or confronting them.

In an email sent to the entire Yale community, Yale Police Department Chief Ronnell Higgins said a recent such incident took place on the Church Street overpass, near Gateway Community College in downtown New Haven. Higgins also provided some safety tips on how to avoid being targeted by similar attacks.

“As always, try not to make yourself an easy target,” Higgins said in the email. “Every time you are walking and texting or talking on the phone, or listening to music with earphones, you are more susceptible to crime.”

On Friday afternoon, the NHPD issued a press release detailing the department’s ongoing investigation into these incidents. In the release, NHPD spokesman David Hartman said that all six reported incidents took place on November 18 and 19.

NHPD investigators have made progress in the days since, identifying three persons of interest so far. They believe that the assaults are all related, and were committed by the same group of individuals: “teen-age black and hispanic males in groups of varying numbers.” To help find the perpetrators, NHPD detectives have been perusing social media sites and have also dispatched undercover officers to the relevant area.

“This is inexcusable behavior by a bunch of cowards,” Hartman said in the release. “We don’t see this as a game. We see this as a pattern of crimes for which we hope the perpetrators will receive swift and strict penalties under the law. When these thugs are caught, I pray no one believes for a moment any attempt by them to express remorse.”

No further knockout assaults have been reported since Tuesday.