Police say a violent mugger is stalking East Harlem and sections of Manhattan's Upper East Side, and it appears he is targeting one particular group of New Yorkers. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
New York City Police Department community affairs officers hit the streets of East Harlem Friday to warn Asian Americans in the community about a violent thief.
Since January 17, at least seven Asian Americans have been attacked and robbed.
"They were punched," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Some were knocked out or to the point where they didn't remember exactly what happened."
The attacks have basically happened from 96th to 116th Street between Second and Madison Avenues, an area that has a growing Asian community. Lots of Chinese and Filipinos continue to move to this neighborhood.
Police say the thief often follows his victims into elevators, then attacks.
"Why are they doing this?" said one person in the neighborhood. "Do they hate Asians?"
"They're only attacking a certain type of nationality here, and it's promoting a lot of fear around the area," said another.
"We've had hate crimes squad involved because obviously, the fact that all the victims are Asian raises concerns in that area," Kelly said. "But we're not certainly in that position to categorize it as a hate crime."
Officers who speak Mandarin and Cantonese are trying to see if they can get more information from the community.
Private security was stepped up as well at the Franklin Plaza complex.
Police described the suspect as being between 6 feet and 6 feet, 2 inches tall and weighing 200 to 240 pounds.
Some people NY1 spoke with didn't know about the attacks. They said they will now be looking over their shoulders.
Anyone with information on the case should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.