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Arrests Down, But Complaints About Pushy Costumed Characters In Times Square Persist

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- New complaints have been made of costumed characters getting out of control in Times Square.

The blue lines painted on the ground in Times Square make it clear where costumed characters and entertainers are allowed to solicit for tips, but the rules were apparently being broken at the corner of 42nd Street and 7th Ave.

CBS2 video shows a group ganging up on tourist Renelle Nicholas Best after taking a picture with her 6 and 2-year-old sons.

"My friend was giving them $2 and she says I don't want that, I don't want that," Best said, "They wanted more."

That type of aggressive behavior was part of the reason the city established 'designated activity zones' a year ago.

The areas marked in blue show where the characters can work.

At the beginning of July, the Times Square Alliance spent a Saturday between 4 and 9 p.m., observing the Designated Activity Zones, and found costumed characters were regularly violating the rules.

The alliance said 88 percent of the interactions involved a costume character touching a member of the public without consent.

Surveillance video from April shows several incidents where characters corral unsuspecting tourists -- often children -- outside the zone, before demanding tips.

"I'd like a strategy where the NYPD does observations and really identifies who are the people who are the repeat offenders who are more aggressive. More education that says this is what's appropriate and this is what's inappropriate," Tim Tompkins said.

Police said arrests have gone down, with only five costumed characters getting picked up so far this year, compared to twenty-six during the same time last year.

"Do I think some of the entertainers are too pushy? I certainly do. Do I think the Times Square Alliance is trying to get rid of the characters completely? I think that's what their game is," one pedestrian said.

The alliance denies that claim, and said the characters are a part of the fabric that makes Times what it is, the problem is when they cross the line.

The Times Square Alliance conducted a snap poll of Times Square employees, residents, and others; 65 percent had a negative experience with a costumed character or a solicitor within the past three months.


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