With City Hall trying to decide what to do about topless painted ladies and costumed characters in Times Square, the NYPD Wednesday said it would hasten the deployment of more cops to the area as part of its new neighborhood policing initiative.
Chief of Department James O'Neill said the current force of about 50 Operation Impact officers would grow to 100 by October. The cops will be assigned to the Patrol Borough Manhattan South command.
In a meeting with reporters at police headquarters, O'Neill acknowledged the increase in patrol strength represents an acceleration of plans to give Times Square the NYPD's new neighborhood policing program currently used in a handful of other precincts.
"Times Square is an important piece of real estate in New York City and we have to pay attention to what goes on there," O'Neill said.
"There are many issues in Times Square, there are all sorts of performers, there are the costumed characters, the CD sellers, the painted women, there are vendor issues," O'Neill added.
The neighborhood policing strategy is based on the idea that cops who are familiar with the areas they patrol can do a better job and build rapport with the public. The cops will be assigned to the so called "bow tie" area, which runs from Times Square at 42nd Street to 49th Street up Broadway, O'Neill said.
"We are looking to get the same people, on the same post for the same time period everyday," he said.
The accelerated patrol plans come after weeks of headlines about topless painted women and aggressive costumed characters who pose with tourists for tips and have raised the ire of Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner William Bratton. In response, de Blasio set up a task force, which includes Bratton, to come up with ways of dealing with the situation.
"As this issue came up in the last three to four weeks it seemed to be a natural progression," O'Neill said to explain why the department was accelerating neighborhood policing to the area.
O'Neill said the cops, who will be recruited from around the city, will be operating under the current legal and regulatory framework that essentially protects the activities of the women on First Amendment grounds.