Not only have arrests of subway panhandlers increased threefold over the past year, but it appears the NYPD has also been significantly cracking down on underground vendors and performers. Arrests of subway vendors have increased more than 80 percent since last March, according to reports.
At last night's MTA board meeting, the NYPD Transit Bureau noted that panhandler and vendor arrests were up 174 percent from this time last year. Panhandler arrests made up 256 of the 345 total arrests, with numbers including subway acrobats—a pair of "Showtime!" performers, for instance, were arrested on a C train in January and charged with reckless endangerment. (While it is legal to perform on transit facilities, Transit Authority rules prohibit performances on subway trains or buses).
And 89 of the arrests were of vendors like churro peddlers, who are often found hawking their wares on subway platforms and in stations. That number is nearly double the number of arrests last year. "They are brazen enough to do it in front of you,"; a police source told the Post. "It’s gross. They’re in the subway, which is filthy, selling food no one knows how was made or produced."
The NYPD's panhandler crackdown reportedly began in November of last year, with 71 arrests taking place in a span of just two weeks. A police source told the Post, "There are more important things" to worry about than panhandlers. "People are getting thrown onto subway tracks, having their iPhones and iPads snatched. The last thing we’re worried about is a man begging for a nickel on the holidays," he told the tabloid.
The NYPD has not responded to requests for comment.