August 26th, 2014 | Sterling
NYC Superheroes Turn Super-Creepy
The superheroes of Times Square are getting a bad reputation after a rash of criminal incidents. The beloved childhood characters from comic books, video games, and classic television programs come to life in the heart of the Big Apple. It can be a magical experience for youngsters, but for the people masquerading as these characters it’s simply their way of earning a living. These quirky masked marvels survive off of the tips and generosity of tourists, but some have taken their soliciting too far.
In July, Spiderman put the pressure on a tourist for a bigger tip and caught the eye of a nearby police officer. When the police officer came to the defense of the tourist, Spiderman went on the attack cursing at the officer and eventually punching him.
Super Mario was a little too hands-on when he allegedly groped a woman in 2012. She reported the incident to a security guard who directed her to the local precinct. Super Mario, or rather the man dressed as Super Mario, was quickly charged with forcible touching and unlawful possession of marijuana.
It’s not just superheroes who have found themselves in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Apparently some of the people costumed as Sesame Street characters didn’t pay attention to the lessons on the long-time PBS children’s program. In 2012, Elmo went on an anti-Semitic tirade which was captured on video and made the rounds on social media. He was sentenced to community service, but made headlines yet again in 2013 by attempting to extort Girl Scouts for $2 million. He threatened to make false accusations of child prostitution against the organization. He has since been sentenced to one year in prison.
In response to the increase in complaints about the inappropriate conduct of these costumed characters, New York City officials are considering a bill that would require background checks and licensing. Legislation has been considered in the past, but waived off because street performers are difficult to regulate and it’s not considered an actual profession or industry. This time around, city officials are taking it more seriously as the problem only appears to be escalating.
These characters have close contact with the public, particularly children and unsuspecting tourists. When someone is dressed as a fuzzy and lovable children’s character, parents sometimes let their guard down. They let these people hold their children so they can snap a picture, but what they don’t consider is that these individuals are “self-employed”. There is no application process or background check and they are not held responsible by an employer. Anyone – even violent criminals and sex offenders – can suit up and roam Times Square. The same goes for any street performers or other people with extensive access to the public.
By implementing background checks and licensing requirements for costumed characters, New York City would pave the way for other jurisdictions to impose similar legislation and make the streets safer for everyone.
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