The NYPD has reportedly been spreading some good ol' Christmas cheer among the homeless community this year by arresting hordes of subway panhandlers, just in time for the holidays.
According to the Daily News, 58 panhandlers were arrested in one week at the end of last month, and the NYPD, fresh off the buzz of last week's subway crime decrease data drop, said yesterday that it plans to increase police presence significantly over the next couple of weeks.
Both the Daily News and the NY Post have been quick to point out that many of the panhandlers who have been arrested recently had a number of previous arrests under their belts, including jumping turnstiles, theft and sexual abuse (also, probably, panhandling). And though a few New Yorkers the Daily News interviewed praised the NYPD for "promot[ing] the well-being of commuters," and cutting out commute "disturbances," etc., at least one person noted the panhandler crackdown was indicative of a bigger problem that couldn't be swept under the city's proverbial rug too easily. "There should be more organizations trying to help them out," Mourad Ben Romdhan told the News. "The city should find a solution to help them get back on their feet. Hunger is a terrible thing that needs to be fought, and I'm not sure how effective an arrest can be."
Panhandling is illegal in the subway, as well as near an ATM and in locations blocking public traffic; Jean Rice, a homeless man who is involved with the Picture the Homeless organization in the Bronx, urged subway solicitors to stay aboveground to avoid arrest. "I would ask them to abide by the rules pertaining to public solicitation," he told us. "I understand that it's cold but if you go outside away from an ATM machine and you don't block pedestrian traffic and you don't become aggressive, when you get cold go inside and don't solicit. If you do it in a legal manner, some police officers who don't know the law might accost you, but if you explain in a diplomatic cordial manner that you're not breaking the law...they'll usually leave you alone." Usually.
There are more homeless New Yorkers now than there have been in decades—but it's probably all because of stop-and-frisk, so whatever. As long as Bloomberg's around we can ship the panhandlers off elsewhere and pretend the ones left behind are flashback nightmares from the days of yore.