The costumed characters that flock Times Square and offer to take pictures with tourists for money have quickly become synonymous with the area. Yet that might not be a good thing; these performers have developed a reputation for being aggressive and actually scaring a lot of people away from Times Square. Recently, a council member from the Bronx has quietly resurrected a bill that require these characters to register with the City and wear identification. Failure to do so could risk civil and possibly criminal charges. This comes less than a month after the Council voted to confine these characters and ticket sellers to designated zones within the Times Square pedestrian plaza.
The bill’s sponsor, Andy King, said that this move is necessary to identify whether or not any of these costumed characters are “bad apples” who could cause trouble. The bill, Int. 467A, would require all “costumed individuals” who solicit for tips to register with the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and obtain a license that would be worn at all times. Registration would require $30, proof of address, a “full-face” photograph and a government-issued ID. Anybody found soliciting tips without a proper ID would be subject to a fine.
The business-interest group Times Square Alliance has lobbied heavily for activity zones in the area in the aftermath of a flood of tabloid coverage and civilian complaints about aggressive behavior from these costumed characters. Not surprisingly, these characters have pushed back in protest, and have even been joined by some city politicians, who believe it “criminalizes the least among us”. One lawyer who represented costumed characters has stated that most of his clients’ charged are dismissed in court, and that the bill would encourage unlawful arrests.
The lack of any criminal penalty presents a challenge to law enforcement, since, as Chief William Morris of Manhattan South pointed out, there wouldn’t be any practical way for a police officer to properly issue a civil penalty. King said he was amenable to adding criminal penalties in an effort to add “teeth” to the bill.
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