News

NYPD to tourists: Call 911 if superhero bothers you

NYPD to tourists: Call 911 if superhero bothers you

TIMES SQUARE: A visitor to Times Square poses for photos with iconic costumed characters, Monday, July 28, in New York. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that he believes the people wearing character costumes in Times Square should be licensed and regulated. Photo: Associated Press/Rachelle Blidner

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York police have begun handing out fliers to tourists in Times Square telling them that tipping the costumed superheroes and children’s characters who pose for photographs is optional, and to call the 911 emergency number if they have complaints.

The fliers are part of an aggressive crackdown after a string of arrests of people dressed as characters who have gotten into confrontations with tourists or police, including one dressed as Spider-Man charged last month with punching a police officer who intervened in a tipping dispute.

“Tipping is optional,” the fliers say in capital letters, printed in five languages in partnership with the Times Square Alliance, which promotes area businesses. “If you have any complaints, talk to a police officer or call 911.”

Police said they arrested three more characters on Saturday, the first day the fliers were handed out: men dressed as Spider-Man, Iron Man and Elmo. Police also gave another man dressed as Iron Man a court summons.

All were charged with disorderly conduct for obstructing pedestrian traffic, while the man dressed as Spider-Man faces an additional charge of aggressive solicitation.

Dozens of people dressed as characters roam the crowded sidewalks and plaza around Times Square on any given day, stretching their arms out toward passing children, many in somewhat ratty costumes. They typically carry laminated cards or pouches labeled with the word “TIPS,” which they wave at tourists after a photograph has been taken.

The city’s highest officials have taken notice. Bill Bratton, the police commissioner, has expressed concern about the “Elmo craze.” Mayor Bill de Blasio says the behavior of the characters should be regulated.

In interviews on Monday, men dressed as Elmo and Batman rejected the idea that they are no more than panhandlers in fancy dress.

“This is not a problem for me, this is good,” Victor Aldea of Passaic, New Jersey said of the fliers after lifting up his Elmo head. He said he and other performers never insisted on a tip, and would settle for a child’s smile.

Jose Escalona-Martinez said the U.S. Constitution gives him the right to wear whatever he likes in Times Square – a Batman costume, in his case – and questioned police priorities.

“If they want to do that job, passing out fliers, not looking for real crimes, it’s fine with us,” he said.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Will Dunham)

Recent News

in Entertainment

Today in entertainment history: Nov. 24

Fresh
FILE- This is a 1967 handout image from Parlophone of The British group, The Beatles,. From left, are: Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney; and George Harrison. The woman who as a child was the basis for the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is gravely ill. It was thought by many at the time that the psychedelic song from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band was a paean to LSD because of the initials in the title, but it was actually based on a drawing that John Lennon's young son Julian brought home from school. He told his father the drawing was of Lucy in the sky with diamonds. Lucy Vodden, now living in Surrey just outside of London _ drifted apart after schoolyard days, but they have gotten back in touch as Lennon has tried to help Vodden cope with Lupus, a life-threatening disease.

A look back at some of Hollywood's most memorable headlines.

in Music

New awards, big performances set for Sunday’s AMAs

taylorAMA

Taylor Swift will kick off the American Music Awards on Sunday by performing her chart-topping single “Blank Space” and will…

in Entertainment

This weekend in entertainment history

elvis

A look at the Hollywood headlines that went down in history.

in Music

This week’s top rock tracks

foofighters

LISTEN: This week's top rock songs, according to the latest Billboard chart.