Saturday, December 27, 2014

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The Call Blog: Police Crack Down On Subway Panhandlers And Peddlers

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To get to work, I take the R and transfer to the D, B, A or C. Every week or so, I encounter a woman begging for money while carrying a child. It's painful to see. She needs counseling or an opportunity, not an arrest record.

Arrests of panhandlers and peddlers in the subways have tripled since Bill Bratton became Police Commissioner in January. According to police statistics, 274 people were arrested in the first two months of the year compared to 90 during the same period last year. Bratton has long held the belief that arresting people for smaller crimes prevents larger ones from happening.

Straphangers we spoke with this morning gave the initiative mixed reviews. Some said panhandlers are "intimidating" and create a "very uncomfortable" environment on trains and platforms. Others found it unnecessary for police to arrest people "who are trying to make a dollar." What do you say?

Do you support arresting more panhandlers and peddlers to enhance the quality of life underground? Do you give to those who ask for money or perform on trains and platforms? Would you like to see police cracking down on fare evaders and others who break the rules on the subway?

Send your thoughts using the link above.

I would encourage my fellow New Yorker's to donate to charities that help these folks rather than give on the subway where panhandlers basically trap you to listen to their blight.

Bay Ridge


The Commissioner should be worried about the knock -out game and other felonies and not leave it to victim's fathers to pull the tape to give to the NYPD detectives. Instead , the commissioner is victimizing the victims of a horrible economy.

If he really was concerned about the subways, he wouldn't have announced that he is going for a ride on the overnite tour. I'm sure there will be plenty of officers for photo opps; maybe deBlasio will show up.

Midtown East
Retired NYPD

Hi John

I think cracking down on fare evaders is more important because the evaders are taking money away from the MTA that's the money that can be used to negotiate a new contract for my buddies at the MTA. Sometimes i give to the panhandlers when i have extra money i don't believe they should get arrested they should be placed in a shelter if they don't have a home.


It's about time!

For the last four years, the number of beggars working the subway has escalated, and this is not only a patently illegal activity, but it sets a tone of instability and a strong appearance of an out-of-control subway environment, which visitors to the city -- who, let's face it, are the life-blood of the city's economy -- find off-putting, if not downright frightening. Writing from personal experience, I've found most of the beggars working the subways to be a threatening presence, and never a welcome one -- and more than one in my experience has proved to be violent.

This whole situation, after Mayor Giuliani's clean-up of the subways in the mid-1990s, shouldn't ever have been allowed to happen.

Upper West Side

This is the new Stop and Frisk. If you look at the demographics of those that peddle, beg, and entertain on subways you will see that they are predominately Black, brown, and beige people of color. Bratton is being true to himself, he is a regulator (and it appears that the Mayor is too). Now he will flood the underground with his robots and the new focus of stop & frisk.


Hi John,

While many people are down on their luck or have been there many times before and I must include myself also. I do feel sorry for the ones that are trying to make a living. Then the other side of the coin would be that it can be a hindrance in riding public transportation plus can also present a danger to the public. There always seems to be a poll in every story somewhere/somehow or another. I would like to know just what do they do with all of these people arrested? Every time we have a crime all the people arrested usually have a prior arrest record. While they take polls and keep records of all the arrests it all sounds very good according to for instance in this case the police commissioner = They should concentrate on the fare beaters. So according to Bratton by making these arrests of smaller crimes it will eliminate the larger ones. Do they serve jail time for fare beaters and panhandlers, etc. I still believe that all of these arrests just become a revolving door.

Thank you John,

I have just read that the NYPD is to crack down on subway panhandlers and peddlers. I find this most disturbing because these people don't need tickets or jail but help. This could mean affordable housing, mental health assistance and financial help. I know this only too well, for after the Vietnam war and was release from the Navy I found myself in terrible shape both mentally and physically and living on the street for awhile. I found myself asking strangers for spare change and that was just to get something to eat. It was a sad time but if not for the kindness of a stranger, I don't know if I would have survived. The city needs to take pity on such as these. Let not New York become to be called," Town without pity,"

Glen Oaks Village, N.Y.

There is one Panhandler named Raf(not his real name) who has been panhandling for years. I confronted hom one day about his"profession" He now avoids me like the plague. I would support his arrest.

Rosalie from Brooklyn

My suggestion to the police commissioner is to provide the panhandlers info on shelters and food pantries instead of arresting them. It is obvious that they need help especially with the challenging winter we have been experiencing.

Rosa from Riverside Drive


I dislike all of the panhandlers and the acrobatics. They are annoying. But I do like the singers

Port Richmond, SI

Maybe rather than arresting beggars on the train we can work to get them jobs. It seems counter productive to set the homeless or disadvantaged even further back. How can they get work in the future with arrests in the history. It's seems pretty petty.

Kristin, Upper East Side

John & The Call -

Please have NYPD Commissioner Bratton visit the Staten Island Ferry terminal at St George on Staten Island during the morning commute. It is common to have a panhandler approach people right after buying a coffee in the terminal. They see you with money in your hand and it is an uneasy situation to get approached so quickly.

I feel bad for their situation but it's like you always have to be on your guard.

John, Oakwood

I say arresting them would improve the quality of life on the subways. I'm tired of pan handlers coming up to my face, asking for money. I hate holding my breath during my commute, listening to kids selling candy, and I'm sick of the kids dancing on crowded trains. Do that on the station, not on a crowded car.

Mike From Morningside


First let me say that I am very sorry for those who have no other recourse than to beg.
My heart goes out to those who are legit. But to the other con artists - they should be reminded that this is an illegal activity. In the same way that the squeege men were put out of commission so should panhandling.

Brother Al

Bratton's strategy is effective, with a proven track record, and should be allowed to continue. The long-term decline in the City's crime rate began when Bratton, as head of the TA police force in the early 1990s, cracked down on panhandlers and fare beaters, who turned out to have outstanding warrants for other, more serious crimes.


Not everyone is a tap dancer like Joshua. To those who turn a blind eye to those panhandling, I say they are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Bratton is the man in charge and I have faith in his judgment. He has reduced crime in 3 major cities. And if you can’t follow or lead, get out of the way

Bklyn Hgts

Dear John,

I think Mayor de Blasio should be helping people, not having them arrested for trying to get the needed items they cannot afford.

When NYPD picks up a person who is begging in the subway system, the person should be offered two options to choose:

1) They could be arrested and charged for begging in the subway system;


2) The NYPD could take these people to a Human Resource Program where they register to receive their needed assistance.

Clifton, Staten Island

I think a lot of times people are looking for the warm human connection more so than the money.

Rich from Manhattan

I think that arresting people for petty crimes like panhandling is wrong. There are more important things going on in the world than arresting people. They are not really aggressive with it, with the exception of the performers. The system is already backlogged with countless so called crimes. It's all about dollars with this city.

Theresa N

As far as I know, it is illegal to panhandle on the subway car but it is also illegal to give money to the panhandlers and performers. I have witnessed people that have gotten kicked in the face and been told to move out of their way and threatened with violence. I never see policeman arresting these performers. I think that mostly tourist pay these performers. The laws should be enforced and those performing and those giving money should all be arrested and fined. Then finally we will cease this "feed a cat and it will follow you home" syndrome.


From the bums, the gropers, the psychotics, to the "showtime" dancers, thinking of these quality of life issues on the subway make me happy to spend extra for the express bus and LIRR. Remember the $0.30 you give to a homeless person begging on the train becomes $0.30 spent on crack.

Glen Oaks, Queens

I see it as a safety issue. If you are drumming or playing music then I can't hear the announcements. It's a hassle. It's dangerous. Move them along please!


The panhandlers and performers are part of the "spice of life" in this city.... With so much of the character having already been stripped from New York, lets leave something left. If the wealthy are inconvenienced or bothered by someone down on their luck, they can help instead of complaining like selfish children.


Panhandlers are not the issue - it's a tough life. The most disturbing thing on the subway is how filthy it is. People are being paid to clean and clearly not doing their job ... Whoever heads up cleaning on the subways should be arrested for fraud ... How hard us it to actually mop a floor with clean water and detergent or wipe down a tile wall occasionally? It's really stomach turning in most stations and trains ... It's an embarrassment to the city.

Lower Manhattan

Don’t mind them on the platform or on the street, only when I am trapped in a subway car with them.


I feel like its not hurting anyone, it is up to the people whether or not they give money to Panhandlers, so it shouldn't be a big deal. They should focus on bigger issues besides people begging on the Subway. Panhandlers are people just like us that are down on their look. What would you do????

Chris in Astoria

I have very mixed feelings on this one. Certainlly, a beggar must have the first Amendment right to speak. On the other hand, the rest of us have a right to be left in peace.

Steve in College Point

There is an important distinction between pan handlers and public performers. Public performers and buskers are entertaining people and are part of the energy of NYC. Pan handlers and betters wouldn't be asking for money if people didn't give - maybe people should get fined if they give to pan handlers, instead of of arresting people that are down on their luck and desperate.

Craig & Rachel

I happen to know a group of young men who currently make their living singing on the train. They are law, abiding and harmless young men who are struggling to survive. This new crackdown will have an adverse effect because while the mayor and police commissioner are focusing on these petty crimes, they are forcing the less fortunate to focus on survival techniques that may involve more serious crimes above ground.


There is a woman in my midtown neighborhood who frequently asks for money for food and when I say no she often follows me shrieking "why not?" A couple of weeks ago, after one of these exchanges, I went into a local news store to pick up a pack of lifesavers. Guess who I saw walking away with lottery tickets? Can't say I blame her, but convinced me I am right to give money to charities that feed the poor, rather than trying to feed them myself.

On the train I most hate the "entertainers"on the shuttle between GCT and Times Square. They are always there. It's gotten so before I board a car I stick my head in to make sure there's not one already in the car. I can't stand people singing and dancing on the trains. They can sing and dance anywhere they want, just not on the trains.

Ellie - Turtle Bay

Tokyo, London, Moscow, Paris, and Washington DC don't allow panhandling in their subways for safety sake and to keep order. The MTA has a law against panhandling for a very good reason. If the law is broken, then a penalty must be paid.

Forest Hills

Let the police crack down on criminals. Panhandlers are not committing a crime. And those that entertain people and make a few dollars in the process is not a big deal. You want to arrest, find those that are going around with the Sucker Punch, and killing people in the process.

East Harlem

do like guliani did, homeless panhandlers, here is $100 and a one way bus ticket to a city of your choice. it worked., clean it up again. musicians, thats a different story, leave them be., they make it better waiting for the waiting straphangers. free loading beggars, no need.

-billy d ,brooklyn

As an Astorian who has frequently been annoyed by the "Showtime" kids on the subway I am happy that they are cracking down on performers on the subway. As someone that (because they frequent the stop between 59th and Queensboro) sees them frequently I wish it would stop. I have even seen fellow straphangers kicked in the face by these "performers" as they performed their antics. I have less of an opinion about panhandlers versus those kids. Jail time is not necessary but something should be done. Arresting the Churro ladies is not going to stop crime and to me it is just mean.

J "Astoria"

I understand that it is difficult to make ends meet in nyc but the subway is not the place to ask for money. Commuters should not be subjected in a closed environment to begging, which they did not ask for while simply trying to get home. There are ways that panhandlers can receive help through shelters and charities above ground but the subway is just not the place for this behavior.

Scott from the Upper East Side

Excuse me, but why should it be alright for me to be accosted as I travel through the city? I feel sorry for the poor and homeless, but I do not think that gives you a right to use the subway for other than its intended purpose. Your poverty, homelessness, etc., does not give you the right to impose upon me.

Kensington, Bklyn

Instead of arresting the panhandlers, why don't they connect them with social services so they don't do this again? It might not stop all panhandling, but it might reach out to those who need it. We should be bringing in other government agencies to work on this issue.

Washington Heights

i do not donate or contribute to the panhandlers, beggers, or disabled. the panhandlers need to get a real job. they are collecting tax free money from hard working new yorkers. as far as begging, there a programs to assist them if they are disabled. They receive government aid, food stamps, and low income housing while the rest of us have to work hard for to get what they get freely. As far as these underground performers; they won't get a penny from me. They are a noisy distraction. Get a real job and pay taxes like the rest of us.


If someone's not being aggressive or disruptive, I think they should be left alone or directed to resources if appropriate. But back in the early 90s, I encountered panhandlers who got aggressive and would try to block my path, etc. when I declined to donate. I prefer to donate directly to charities I've researched.

The other factor is commuting is difficult enough. Some people have a commute an hour and up. Last week I came home on the ferry and had to listen to a really bad string player who was doing synth version of 70s movie themes and selected classical pieces. On the street, one can more easily get away from aggressive handlers and bad performers. Not so in enclosed, captive audience spaces.

I used to take the bus from 45th & 5th. There's a group of mediocre dancers who play the same snippet of Billy Jean over and over and over again. They draw a crowd of gawking tourists who block the sidewalk during rush hour. At certain times of the year, those of us waiting for the bus would practically be shoved into traffic. That's disruptive

Why not designate certain areas for performers? Such as the traffic "calmed" areas near Times Square and Herald Square? People who want to enjoy and financially support the performers can do so and the performers can earn money. Win-win for everyone and it doesn't clog up people trying to get to where they're going.

Lisa from Staten Island.

My name is Pamela, for months my comrade and I have been complaining about the bums in the subway. They expose us to diseases. This is the issue. This morning Ny1 was in Jamaica. It was awful.

I don't give money to people who make an announcement on the train that they are asking for money and then go to each person asking for money. I do give money to performers if I have dollar bills or quarters easily accessible and I enjoy their performance. Some of them are amazingly talented and have clearly spent a lot of time choreographing and/or practicing and during that time staying out of trouble. I'd like to see police officers help pan handlers get the help they really need - not arrest them. But the street performers are part of what makes NYC special. As long as they are not harassing anyone, leave them alone. If people don't like a lot of "action" they should consider living someplace else.


Arresting subway performers is ridiculous. I don't enjoy all of them but it is what makes this city special. Not everyone likes it, but, if you don't like it, move to another city. This city is now filled with miserable people who hate it here. They will complain about ANYTHING. MOVE TO ANOTHER CITY. PLEASE.

Kat, Williamsburg, BK

I don't give the grown ups nothing but when I see children selling candy...I give them and don't take the candy...i feel they show that they know the true value of making a $1 and they just want to do the right thing to get what they need...who wouldn't appreciate that?

McGriff from bklyn

I think its okay to have performers on in the subway platforms where you can choose to move away or watch, but I don't think that they should be in the subway cars. The performances can get very close, very dangerous, in your face, and you're a captive audience. For this reason I think that the police presence is welcome. As far as regular panhandling just quietly asking for money, I don't think they should be arrested, but directed to programs and services that can help them get back on their feet.

Annalisa, East Village

ITS about time that they address this problem of very smelly homeless that really effects the quality of the subway experience and should really help the homeless people

will frm willaimsburg..

Those people are entertaining the subway riders that is part of New York I love to see them performing. They shouldn't pay taxes. What about the jews that owns those trades compa ies, the jewellers on 47th 48th streets in Manhattan and do only cash businesses?
At least they are working to fed their families. Leave them alone.


I believe that it is perfectly fine that people, who clearly have money problems are trying to get a dollar or two. It is unconstitutional that people want to arrest. People forget these are also people and only look at the differences in class. If you don't like just pay no mind to them. Arresting them is too harsh.


Didn't the group "Nothin' but Stringz", which has been featured on NY1, start out as subway performers?

Washington Heights

Hi John,

Love your show. Watch it every night after I put the kids in bed. I have no problem with them cracking down on panhandling on the subway, I'm just wondering why the nypd is doing it. I thought the mta had their own police. Doesn't this behavior on the subway and platforms fall under the jurisdiction of the mta police? Just wondering.

Thank you
Lower East Side

As far as I know, it is illegal to panhandle on the subway car but it is also illegal to give money to the panhandlers and performers. I have witnessed people that have gotten kicked in the face and been told to move out of their way and threatened with violence. I never see policeman arresting these performers. I think that mostly tourist pay these performers. The laws should be enforced and those performing and those giving money should all be arrested and fined. Then finally we will cease this "feed a cat and it will follow you home" syndrome.


Their are elder and disable people that aren't ready to move out the wAy of being hurt by performers. Also they need to pay TAX if you make a certain amount of $ do they claim it or should all artist stop working so we don't pay tax. I give $ to some but I really don't need a show if u need a $ or coffee to stay warm is one thing but to get over is crazy pay your Taxes. We have to put a system and they need to pay tax not get free college $ and financial aid. Street perform on the street maybe!

Nicolemichelle from queens

How about the MTA enforce other policies . . . such as no open strollers; don't block the doors; move into the cars; no eating or drinking.

Jonathan in Manhattan

I applaud the Commissioner's initiative to take back the city and protect its citizens from panhandlers not just underground but above ground as well. However one situation I believe needs to be looked at closer is the panhandlers who stand outside of restaurants and certain businesses and hold the doors for patrons and demand money for doing so. I find that reprehensible. These businesses have their hands tied because they call the police to no avail and are powerless to physically restrain these people and stop them from accosting their customers. I hope Bratton and DeBlasio are listening to tonight's broadcast and consider looking into this situation.


Research shows that not tackling quality of life small crimes leads to urban decay. I support artist performing on subway platforms as part of Arts in the Transit system but not inside the train where loud performers and flying teens in closed quarters are hazardous. Paying fare riders deserve to a quiet ride home and a clean seat not occupied by a non paying destitute individuals. As a legal US resident that pays "taxation without representation" I believe we tax payers are taxed heavily to provide social services to any individual that needs them.

Washington Heights

And the performers are part of the arts fabric of NYC. They are earning their way and I value their work even when they "get in your space." Change your attitude, riders of NYC, don't penalize the performers.

Neil in Inwood

I think that people have a choice to give money and if hey want to that's there choice. The jails are already crowded and arresting all who panhandle on the train would totally overcrowd the jails. Not only that they need help and arresting them is not going to help the homeless, it would cause them more problems that they don't need.

-Danielle B. Queens, NY

I don't appreciate beggars and "entertainers" on the subway trains. I hate being a captive audience.


I applaud Bratton for cracking down on subway car performers. For every legit tap dancer who puts himself through Penn State, there are total scammers out there whose behavior routinely escalates to aggressive and rude and loud . And you're trapped!!! Had a guy get in my face in a very vulgar way recently for not looking up and giving him money. And people who parade their kids through subway cars are the worst.


I don't like to see people down on their luck being arrested, My priority would be to see more people that commit so-called minor crimes, placed in boot camps, and trained to do some type of work. We used to have trade schools where those, not academically inclined, could learn a trade. Why can't we train those committing minor crimes to be useful citizens, and monitor them for a period of time. This system of having criminals in and out of jail so frequently is tantamount to not have any criminal justice. E.g, I do not consider having my bag stolen a minor crime, and in the Bronx, where I live, this and many similar minor crimes are prevalent. And, I venture to say the minor crimes are a first step that leads to more violent crimes.


This issue is just part of a larger issue very few of those asking for money on the trains are “entertainment” (they are in Paris! even wear a tux!) in N.Y. most are homeless and have mental disorders left out of society sadly..drugs and alcohol as them money does not help them...I give to the Bowery Mission who give food and a place to sleep and try to help them. St. Frances church by Penn Station still has a soup do many places in N.Y. Arresting these people, they will be able to get the help they need.......taking them in...not giving them a record...And lets get some of these young people a job! only 27% of 20 year olds have a job....GOV. CUMO HOW ABOUT LOWERING THE PRICE OF CUNY IT IS A DISGRACE....I

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