Since the city designated “activity zones” for costumed characters in Times Square, gone are the days when Elmo and Mickey Mouse can heckle pedestrians for cash, resulting in happier visitors and much fewer panhandling-related arrests. According to NYPD stats, such arrests are down by a whooping 82 percent, reports the New York Post.
Since the NYPD began enforcing the eight activity zones last June, there have only been six arrests, compared to 33 from the previous year during the same period. Of course, many of the characters are not happy, stating that the zones have resulted in a loss in revenue. However, not all are against the new rules. “I think it’s awesome. Before, it was like a big madhouse,” said the Naked Cowboy in a statement to the Post.
“Times Square should be quirky — not creepy. With no regulations people were put in uncomfortable positions far too often,” a Times Square Alliance spokesman said. Now there are actually places for people to relax, walk through the square uninterrupted or heckled, or interact with characters if they choose to.