Guest editorial…No fun and games in ‘knockout game’

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The mayor struck the appropriate balance of giving a strong warning without stoking public panic.

Philadelphia police believe a man assaulted outside a pizzeria is the victim of the knockout game. Police report that a 15-year-old was arrested last week in the Nov. 11 attack in the city’s Fox Chase section.

The city’s police are looking closely at random attacks to see if they are linked to the game. Police in nearby Lower Merion are investigating two similar attacks.

Police are also investigating recent random attacks in New Jersey, New York, Washington, D.C. and Washington state. Police in Syracuse said the city had seen two such attacks this year, each fatal, and at least one of the assailants said he was playing the knockout game.

Authorities say the goal of the “game” is to knock a random pedestrian unconscious with just one punch. In some of the cases the young men videotaped themselves randomly assaulting people.

Some commentators have assigned a racial element to the game since most of the reports have involved Black assailants attacking White victims. In New York, a Brooklyn man was arrested on charges of assault as a hate crime and aggravated harassment as a hate crime because the victim was an Orthodox Jewish man. However in Philadelphia, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said the teens in the pizza parlor attack, both the assailants and the victim, were White. There is no evidence showing that Black on White violence has spiked in recent years.

It is not clear how many random attacks can be accurately attributed to the game and whether it is truly a new phenomenon or nothing more than the sort or random assaults that have always occurred.

In a recent New York Times article titled “‘Knockout Game’ a Spreading Menace or a Myth,” said New York City police officials “are struggling to determine whether they should advise the public to take precautions against the knockout game—or whether in fact it existed.”

“We’re trying to determine whether or not this is a real phenomenon,” Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. “I mean, yes, something like this can happen. But we would like to have people come forward and give us any information they have.”

While telecasts have also shown teenagers in Jersey City, their faces blurred, describing knockouts, Bob McHugh, a police spokesman in Jersey City, said there had not been a single reported knockout incident there.

“If there ever was an urban myth, this was it,” McHugh said.

Widespread reports of the game in the media, much of it sensationalized, have spurred national concern.

Parents need to warn their children not to copycat these attacks. Young people must get the clear message that randomly assaulting people is not a game; it’s a crime.

(Reprinted from the Philadelphia Tribune)

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