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New York City is cracking down on dancers in its subway trains after seeing a 600-percent increase in "acrobatics"-based arrests in the last year.
New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton sees these subway performers as part of a pernicious "low-grade lawlessness" that can create the perfect environment for more dangerous criminals. The Associated Press reports that while Bratton doesn't believe it is a significant crime, he feels subway dancers and acrobats are adding to a greater sense of disorder in the city's mass transit.
So what can happen to a subway dancer in NYC?
If you've been on a subway train before, the sight of someone attempting to perform for tips -- or just for attention -- might not faze you. However, you might be surprised to know that these (literally) underground dancers are potentially committing a misdemeanor by dancing in NYC's subway trains.
The problem is that New York state has a criminal prohibition against what lawmakers have deemed "aggressive solicitation." Normal panhandling in a public place may get the average Gotham performer slapped with a loitering charge, which is essentially just a fine. Aggressive solicitation is a misdemeanor, meaning that subway pole-dancers and backflippers can face real jail time.
This New York law is broad enough for police to enforce this increased charge when panhandlers cause riders to "suffer unreasonable inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm," or even when pedestrians are "blocked" by performers. The NYPD's transit chief believes that subway dancers are more of a safety issue -- both for passengers and for performers, reports the AP.
Although many New Yorkers have come to accept underground acrobats as a reality of their daily commutes, the NYPD has increasingly turned their focus on these performers. According to the AP, more than 240 people were arrested for misdemeanors related to acrobatics, compared to fewer than 40 this time last year.
Zeroing in on performers hasn't been limited to the subways either. New Yorkers have also been arrested for performing topless in public parks, despite police policies protecting this activity. Perhaps these NYC artists and dancers lack a place within Commissioner Bratton's view of the Big Apple.
So for the time being, backflips and pole-dances may have to stay off the subway train.
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