Now Mayor Nutter has made an official statement — kids, do not assault people, or else we will arrest you. Like we would do any time you assault someone. Regardless of whether we give it a catchy new name. Based mostly on anecdotal evidence, law enforcement agencies and mayors throughout the country are issuing advisories about the so-called “Knockout Game.” The idea behind the game is that kids target a random person on the street to see if they can knock them out with a single blow before fleeing the scene. The scenario is similar to lots of random crimes and violence I have heard about in this city and many others, including a string of such incidents here three or four years ago, but those incidents remained unnamed random acts of violence. In order to cope with the randomness, to show that they are doing something, and to justify more and tougher laws, law enforcement has been quick to label these incidents, to create a pattern, with little evidence that it is anything other than another series of random attacks. Attacks that tragically, terrifyingly, happen from time to time.
To show the level of sensationalism and scare tactics at play, look at Philly.com today. An incident from November 11 in Fox Chase was originally labeled as part of this “trend,” but the Commissioner retracted that statement yesterday. He said essentially that the people arrested did not confess to it being a part of the “Knockout Game,” and they are still investigating. But I am sure the headline that stuck in everyone’s head was the one from November 12 about the latest “Knockout Game” attack and how it had struck here in Philadelphia. In their official statements, the Mayor and the Commissioner also alluded to “possible racial motivations,” stoking deep seeded fears and prejudices many already possess thanks to unfounded reports like these. They do note, however, that the victim and the assailants in the Fox Chase incident were white.
I am not saying that random crime does not happen and there may occasionally be copycats. I certainly do not diminish the fact that many completely innocent people were injured or even killed. I just ask that we keep our heads and critically analyze what comes across our computer and TV screens before allowing fear to overtake our rationality.