A 16-year-old tourist was groped in Times Square on Sunday as she visited Times Square with a tour group. The alleged perpetrator is a New Jersey man who was working in Times Square dressed as the beloved sugar-addicted character Cookie Monster from Sesame Street and Monsterpiece Theater.
An NYPD spokesperson says the unidentified teen was walking with her tour group outside Toys 'R' Us around 5:30 p.m. when 48-year-old Ranulfo Perez, dressed as Cookie Monster, "pulled the victim into a hug and forcibly touched her breasts." Perez was arrested at the scene, and charged with forcible touching in a manner injurious to a child less than 17, as well as second degree harassment.
Perez's arrest is the latest incident involving the Times Square "costumed characters." A mentally ill man who dresses as Elmo has been arrested multiple times for disorderly conduct after he accosted passersby with anti-Semitic remarks. Last year a man dressed as Spiderman allegedly struck a police officer, and another man dressed as Woody from Toy Story was arrested for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman by grabbing her buttock.
Over 18 costumed characters were arrested in 2014. And in 2013, a different man dressed as Cookie Monster was arrested for allegedly shoving a toddler.
The proliferation of costumed characters in Times Square has emboldened some City Councilmembers to push for legislation regulating them. The bill's sponsor, Bronx Councilmember Andy King, said at a hearing in November, "Strawberry Shortcake didn't get the proper tip she wanted, she ripped off her own head and started to berate her father and her family. In the mind of a five year old, how do you comprehend a head being snatched off?"
The regulation would require costumed characters to apply for a license costing $175, in addition to a fingerprinting fee of $75. Critics of the bill say it may be unconstitutional, because wearing a costume is a form of First Amendment experssion. The bill is also criticized as overly broad, because it would require "any costumed individual" in NYC to obtain a license "while wearing a costume to solicit in return for posing for photographs or otherwise interacting with the public in public places."
At the bill's November hearing, The Joker called it "fascism."