Even street savvy New Yorkers who tend to be aware of their immediate surroundings in the city of strangers are unsettled by a recent spate of random stabbings in New York City.
The knife attacks are reminiscent of knockout games, another recent trend of random violent assaults where perpetrators walk up to strangers and sucker punch them in the head in an attempt to knock them out with one punch. As dangerous as it is to be punched in the head, some say the knife attacks are far more frightening and victims include people from every walk of life, according to an ABC report published Tuesday.
Last month David Henry Hwang was walking down the street carrying groceries minding his own business when a slasher attacked him from behind and slit his neck down to an artery. The Tony award-winning playwright said it felt like someone hit him in the neck and he immediately realized he couldn’t walk straight.
“I kept veering into a wall, then a parked car. And that’s when I realized I was bleeding,” Hwang, the author of “M. Butterfly,” said this week. The knife-wielding attacker sank his blade so deep into Hwang’s neck it struck an artery leading to the brain; the loss of blood severely affected his balance.
The playwright, who is expected to recover, is far from being the only recent victim of slashers. Police say they are different people conducting separate attacks in different parts of the city. Police do not have a motive, but the randomness of the attacks follow the modus operandi of knockout game perpetrators. “I like to think that, as a New Yorker, I’m fairly aware — conscious of people around me,” Hwang said. “But this happened on a dark corner of my block. This was a random attack, and the number of recent random attacks surprises me. Is this a new phenomenon?”
According to criminologist Jack Levin of Northeastern University who studies crime, “they want to create anxiety, to feel powerful, to laugh at the results.” Experts say the idea of a “thrill crime” makes the perpetrator feel empowered. Though the attacks seem random, there is a connection, at least in motive. Because police statistics don’t distinguish between random and targeted attacks, little is known about the thought process behind the stabbings.
New York Commissioner William Bratton offered little solace to New Yorkers when he said this week that “crime is inescapable.” “The reality is we still have crime in New York City. We’ll always have crime in New York City,” he said. “But the reality is also that there is less crime in this city than there has been at any time in the last 25 to 50 years.” The commissioner did not address the motives of assaults involving the knockout game or current spate of stabbings in the city.
In another case, 24-year-old Amanda Morris was slashed in the face earlier this month in Brooklyn. A man had been walking beside her and suddenly pulled a knife and slashed her before running off. The attack was recorded by a security camera.
“I felt like I got punched in the face,” Morris told The New York Post. “It was like, ‘Oh, that’s weird. Why would someone punch me?’ Suddenly, blood was all over my hands, and I started crying.”
In another recent case a 71-year-old woman was slashed in the face while on the subway going to work. In still another recent stabbing a man with a history of arrests for assault was charged the unprovoked slashing of a man from New Jersey who came to the city to have dinner with friends. That victim needed 150 stitches to close the ones in his face.