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Police: 53-Year-Old Man Choked And Robbed In Central Park

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Police are searching for a suspect in connection with a robbery in Central Park late Thursday night.

The victim in this latest attack is a 53-year-old man.

Police said he was walking through the Ramble area of the park by West Drive and the 79th Street Transverse around 10 p.m. when the suspect approached him, said he was hungry and asked for money.

Police: 53-Year-Old Man Choked And Robbed In Central Park

When the victim said no, the suspect choked him until he passed out, CBS2's Ilana Gold reported.

When the victim woke up 20 to 30 minutes later, his wallet and backpack with cash, keys, gift cards and jewelry were gone, police said.

The victim went to the hospital the following day to get checked out.

Just two weeks ago, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said quality of life issues, including panhandling, need to be addressed.

"For example if there is a gentleman sitting on the sidewalk here with a sign, 'I'm hungry give me money,' that's not against the law. That's protected by the contstitution. That's an expression of free speech," he said. "However if he's chasing you down the street, grabbing at you or getting in your face or a squeegee person for example who's intimidating you to let him wash the window, that's not protected."

Robberies in Central Park are happening more often than last year. Statistics from police show there have been 20 so far in 2015 -- double the amount from the same time last year, Gold reported.

Women and men have been victimized at all times of the day and night. Just last month, a 26-year-old woman was punched in the face and robbed of only $1.70.

"That's terrible and it's frightening," said one parkgoer.

"Well it's very concerning. This is a park and we should be free to walk here anytime," said another parkgoer.

"It would be helpful, I guess, if we had more police in the park," said one woman.

Other residents told 1010 WINS' Roger Stern they still feel safe in the park, but mostly just during the day.

"As long as it's not dark. I don't come into the park after sunset," said one man.

Police said they have stepped up patrols in Central Park because of the spike in crime, but urge residents to remain vigilant.

Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS (8477). You can also submit a tip by logging onto Crime Stoppers website or text a tip to CRIMES (274637), then enter TIP577.

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