It’s been two months since new-old New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton was sworn in, and much of the press coverage so far has focused on the NYPD’s renewed interest in jaywalkers as part of Vision Zero, the initiative to end traffic deaths. But as the New York Times reports, much of that has focused on walkers, not drivers: jaywalking tickets are up eightfold over the same time last year. That’s been sort of a mixed bag from a public relations perspective, with the nadir being 84-year-old Kang Chun Wong, who says he was beaten up by police officers trying to give him a citation.
As it turns out, Bratton’s sick of talking about jaywalking and most especially Wong’s alleged beating, which he calls “an isolated event.” Instead, he’d rather discuss the other big plans he’s got to make your city even safer, starting in the subway. Capital New York points us to a delightful interview Bratton did with WPIX yesterday morning where he laid out his plans to tackle the biggest menaces of the underground: sleepers, panhandlers, churro-sellers, and the “It’s showtime!” dudes.
Speaking to WPIX’s Kori Chambers, Bratton took a moment to tout the city’s lower crime numbers and reduced reliance on stop-and-frisk. Asked about the Wong incident, Bratton said it was still under investigation, adding, “Jaywalking, you and the media have made a big deal of it. We don’t make a big deal out of it.” He also called the story “passe” and advised New Yorkers and reporters to “move on.”
“That’s an incident over a month and a half ago,” he added.
Great. What’s the new, hip police business? Subway panhandlers and peddlers, who Bratton saw himself on Tuesday night, when he rode the subway (it is news when top city officials ride the subway).
“We had to eject a number of unruly people off the train,” Bratton said. “Dealt with another aggressive panhandler. A number of people sleeping on the train. So there are issues still below ground.”
Unruly people, one aggressive panhandler and the odd snorer sounds like a relatively successful trip home after work, but go on. The “issues of concern,” Bratton said, are the “quality of life issues: the acrobats, the aggressive begging, the people manipulating the swipe cards at the turnstiles. We’re going to be having significant focus on those issues. You’ll see more police and you’ll see them more aggressively going after those so-called quality of life issues, which create fear, frustration and sometimes anger.”
More than 274 panhandlers and peddlers have been arrested this year, including, as Capital points out, a lady selling churros on the platform.
Obviously, the city’s criminal underworld must be quaking. How will the the city’s red hot illegal churro market recover from the blow of Bratton’s iron fist? Can the ‘showtime’ genre survive? Will sleepy criminals dare close their eyes, with Bratton’s shock troops patrolling the underground? Only time will tell. In the meantime, sleep with one eye open, straphangers, because apparently you can get in trouble for that sort of thing.