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by Peter Moskos

September 17, 2015

"It’s Showtime NYC"

Interesting concept reported in the New York Times to get subway dancers out of the subway. An arrest based approach wasn't working (not the first time you've heard that):
Arrests alone — though drastically increasing — were not solving the problem, Mr. Bassin said. He said many of the dancers interviewed in the planning stages of the new effort viewed being arrested as part of the cost of doing business. The statistics appear to bear that out: A quarter of those arrested in 2015 for dancing on the subway had previously been arrested for the dancing
I should mention I know Mr. Bassin, a lawyer in the mayor's office. This is a very Broken Windows approach:
Ian Bassin, approached the Police Department with an idea for addressing the problem — which results in regular complaints from passengers — by providing an alternative to the criminal justice system.
And I like that even de Blasio is getting better at understanding Broken Windows:
“Broken windows doesn’t mean simply arresting our way out of every minor infraction,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement. “It means focusing on quality of life while providing pathways for all New Yorkers to reach their full potential.”
One reason I like this program is it does not limit police discretion. It's still up to the officer. But now cops can actually help solve the problem (and most people, myself included, think it is a problem) rather than just choose between basically no enforcement and arresting a kid for dancing on the subway:
Though officers may still pursue arrests or issue summonses for soliciting on trains, they have been urged to consider the alternative approach: handing out the cards with information about the dance initiative.

Every transit officer now carries the small, brightly colored square cards. Roughly 200 have been handed out to dance groups since officers began the effort in May.

“It’s very refreshing for us and our officers to have another alternative when we’re out there,” said Joseph Fox, the chief of the Police Department’s Transit Bureau. “What this program has given us is something in between warning and admonish, and enforcement.”

As a result, Chief Fox said, arrests of dancers are down, 185 through late August, compared with 264 over the same period in 2014. (There were 153 arrests of dancers in all of 2013.)
Also of note:
Chief Fox said he and Mr. Bassin looked into the backgrounds of the men who were arrested or given summonses for dancing on the trains and found that, while a large number had had some contact with the criminal justice system, it was mostly for minor offenses such as fare beating. A smaller fraction, roughly 25 percent, had been previously arrested for a serious crime like robbery, burglary or felony assault.
The jury is still out on whether the program is working. And success can be judged a few way: fewer complaints on the subway, fewer conflicts on the subway (I've seen a dancer punch a guy for not moving out of the way on a busy train), more people being able to enjoy the right to get home without illegal distractions, fewer people entering the criminal justice system, and potentially more dance potential. Some of the guys do have serious skillz, but they're probably not going to be "found" on the subway. They might be in a city-sponsored public performance space.

Now if only they could make a city-sponsored public performance space for all the subway beggars...


IrishPirate said...

Never seen this in Chicago...thankfully.

I have encountered the shell game on CTA train. I always make it a habit to step on the shells and balls. Causes quite the stir.

CTA seems to have gotten control over much of the active annoyances on the trains. Haven't even seen someone selling socks for years.

Anonymous said...

The subway performers have a captive audience. Some riders are intimidated. Kudoes to the NYPD for coming up with an alternative way to get these performers off the trains, especially considering that the NYTimes article tells us that a considerable proportion of these performers have committed serious crimes:

"....of the men who were arrested or given summonses for dancing on the trains.... a large number had had some contact with the criminal justice system... mostly for minor offenses.... [but]... roughly 25 percent, had been previously arrested for a serious crime like robbery, burglary or felony assault."

D Chen said...

The arrest approach works when you have someone in city hall with a pair of balls who is not afraid to tell the poverty pimps to go to hell aka Rudy instead of the sit down to piss deblasshole who considers the various poverty pimps his associates.

Crime is going to get much, much worse in the city with the sandinista running things. The best thing cops can do in this anti-law enforcement environment it to sit back and do nothing. Any proactive policing can come back on you and cost you your career. Let the animals run wild. They voted for the sandinista. Let them fall victim to the crime wave he brings them. As Ed Koch said, "The people have spoken and now they must be punished".

Peter Moskos said...

Dear Sir,

We have received your comment time stamped 12:20pm on September 18, 2015 and regret to inform you that it is not suitable for publication in this blog at the present time.

While we appreciate your halcyon vision of the years between 1994 and 2001, we question your doomsday predictions of the future. Furthermore, we baffled by your inference that millions of citizens of New York City are, as you put in, "animals." Now certainly all homo sapiens are "animals" in the literal sense. But we, even those millions who voted for the mayor, strive to rise above their base instincts. It is this very effort, perhaps, that separates us from the lesser beasts.

We wish you luck ranting elsewhere. There are many other sites that welcome your passion.

The Editor

p.s. Do not be disheartened by rejection. Your inclusion of the Ed Koch quote indicates great potential in any future writing endeavor. Best of luck!

Peter Moskos said...

Yes, I included that stat for precisely that reason. Sure, not all the kids are bad. But some are. And quite frankly, on my way to work, I don't want to have to worry about which of the four people in my face is the convicted robber!

Peter Moskos said...


I know Penn Jillette strongly disagrees, but I've always had a secret soft spot for the old shell game. I *know* it's a scam. I *know* they're criminals. I don't want to see it in public (much less the subway). And yet I secretly enjoy watching it. It ties us to the old days when the unemployed sold apples for a nickle, people scammed immigrants right off the boat, and shady characters with clever nicknames sliced your pockets while whores grabbed your crotch in public. The shell game is a skill; I couldn't do it. And the patter is a fine art. And the shell game goes does, as I remember it, make a consistent though not frequent appearance on the Chicago L. Why is that?

As to the NYC "showtime" dancers, the L's aren't physically big enough for the Showtime routines you see here in NYC. Or maybe Chicago, with its house roots, just lacks the hip-hop breakdance tradition.

And the Showtimes crews do have their fans here in NYC. But I'm not one of them. Nobody should be involuntary forced to interact with people, much less people that are violating the law and the rules of civilized society. All people who interrupt my right to be left alone in my blissful tuned-out commuting daze, my right to be left in peace in a restricted and confined space, piss me off.

(Except for the Mexican musicians. I love each and every one of them. But was it not Emerson who said "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"?)

Also, there's a good podcast about the (long gone) Sunshine Hotel, the last flophouse on the Bowery. http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/the-sunshine-hotel/
In this podcast, at about 12:20 you can hear the guys, perhaps the original subway do-wop singers, who may have originated the line, at least as used by street subway performers, "It's Showtime!"

IrishPirate said...

Consistency is for the mentally ill. NEARLY Every rule has exceptions...of course there are exceptions to that with some rules that should not be broken. Therein lies the rub.

Chicago now has what I believe are licensed musicians who play on subway platforms downtown. They're actually rather good. They're not aggressive and given the length of subway platforms I can always walk away if their music annoys me. Trains and buses are not meant for any type of performance;however, young women dressed up as Princess Leia and/or Batgirl are allowed to act up a bit. I recall seeing a gaggle of young women going to some kind of costume party one time and they were a bit rambunctious. I didn't mind that much because it amused me and some of them were BAM POW sexy.

Peter Moskos said...

One of my friends may be the only person in the world to ever have been a officially licensed CTA improv comedian. That ain't no fancy school. That's the school of hard knocks.

NYC also gives out licenses for performers. They *are* usually good. They're vetted. They audition. They don't play in moving subway cars.

I love BAM POW, even if it does give me the occasional flashback to 'Nam. I wasn't in Nam, of course. But I was an usher at the M&R Evanston Theatres (sic) when Platoon came out. I believe the letters we put on the marquee said, "Martin Sheen's father in..." It was 1986. We were funny that way.