NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – At least three people were violently mugged early this morning in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
The first attack happened on Ross Street, the second on Wythe Place and a third on Clymer Street.
The suspects allegedly struck three Hasidic Jews, between the ages of 56 and 71, within an hour. Friends told CBS2's Christina Fan the men were walking to synagogue or work when the suspects ambushed them.
Now, the NYPD's Hate Crimes unit is on the case.
"Obviously, might just be a run-of-the-mill mugging with the attempt as a bias crime, knowing that these people - just like myself, I go out of my house at 5:30, and many of them do, because prayer starts at six," community activist Isaac Abraham said.
Police said the attackers snuck up from behind, punched the victims in the face and then rummaged through their pockets. At least two people were taken to the hospital. Abraham said two suffered major trauma and are still being treated, but both are expected to be OK.
Police believe there were three attackers – all teenage boys.
"Looks like they're waiting to make an easy buck," resident Joshua Weiner said.
Weiner said he believes he was targeted, as well, but narrowly escaped becoming a victim.
"My car is parked in the back, so I went down in the morning – 5, 5:30 – I heard someone running in the basement after me," he said. "I ran out fast."
Community activists said they were not surprised by the violence, and many complained about a lack of police presence.
"After every crime, if you take a look, that has been committed here, there is a meeting with zero results," said Abraham.
"There should be security over here, more security," Weiner added.
Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned the attacks on Twitter, pledging additional patrols.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo released the following statement:
"I am sickened by Monday's series of assaults on Hasidic Jews in Williamsburg. In New York, we have absolutely zero tolerance for such heinous acts; they are completely unacceptable and are repugnant to our values of diversity and inclusion.
"I am directing the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to immediately provide the NYPD with any resources needed to assist in the investigation of this incident and to ensure those responsible are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
"Anti-Semitism is a growing cancer that has been injected into the nation's body but in New York we will continue to stand united and with one voice condemn any and all acts of hatred and intolerance."
Police presence was noticeable higher Monday afternoon. Community affairs officers were seen in the area and fliers were placed on neighborhood cars.
Anyone with information is asked to call NYPD's Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or 1-888-57-PISTA (74782) for Spanish. You can also submit a tip via the Crime Stoppers website, by Tweeting @NYPDTips or by texting a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) and then entering TIP577.
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