Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted today that any claims of a “crackdown” on panhandling in the city’s subway system are overrated.
Asked by WNYC radio show host Brian Lehrer whether the “crackdown on subway panhandling” was “consistent with your vision of how the NYPD should treat poor people who are basically innocent of crimes?” Mr. de Blasio said he wanted “to reframe the question” before answering.
Mr. de Blasio then argued that the documented spike in panhandling arrests in the first weeks of his tenure was the result of case-by-case decisions by local police commanders, not a larger shift in policy.
“What we’re doing is [where] a particular precinct or particular officer thinks there is aggressive panhandling or anything that violates the law and people’s safety, that’s what we’re addressing,” Mr. de Blasio said on Mr. Lehrer’s show this morning.
“We’re certainly doing it on a case-by-case basis,” he continued. “It is consistent with both the notion of protecting public safety and recognizing that we’re trying to build a different relationship between police and community. We’ve obviously done that in a very big way when it comes to stop-and-frisk.”
The mayor previously made a similar argument about an increase in jaywalking tickets on the Upper West Side.
The New York Times reported earlier this month that panhandling arrests have tripled over the same period last year under the leadership of Mr. de Blasio’s police commissioner, Bill Bratton. “Under the new administration, the police continue to make fewer arrests and write fewer summonses, so the increase in the arrests of peddlers and panhandlers is particularly striking,” the Times noted.
Both Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Bratton have championed the “broken windows” theory of policing, which advocates strict enforcement of lower-level quality-of-life violations like vandalism and panhandling in an effort to stave off more serious crime.
“We have to go after the small crimes as well as the big crimes,” Mr. de Blasio argued today.