State Senator’s bill will crack down on panhandlers who use kids

“What person wouldn’t want to give a child money when they’re out in the street?”

A state senator wants to crack down on panhandlers who use children to beg New Yorkers for cash.

State Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) will introduce a bill in the fall that makes it punishable by up to a year in prison if an adult is caught using kids younger than 16 to panhandle. Klein said he has noticed an increase of this activity on the subways in the last few years and it puts New Yorkers in a tough spot, even though the adults are endangering the welfare of the child.

“What person wouldn’t want to give a child money when they’re out in the street?” he asked.

In November, NBC 4 New York uncovered an alleged ring where mothers would trade children and panhandle on the subways, even when it appeared they weren’t homeless. Klein said even though it’s illegal for anyone under 17 to solicit money, the rule is under the state’s Arts & Cultural Affairs Law, making it difficult for officers to prosecute suspects.

The senator’s bill would put the rule under the state’s Penal Law and if the suspects are arrested, they face a year in prison for the first offense and up to four years for a repeat instance.

“There may be families who are really struggling, but we can weed out people who are taking advantage of New Yorkers,” Klein said.

The senator expects to have support for the “common sense law.”

“This is certainly an issue that’s been magnified and if we’re truly interested in protecting the welfare of our young people we should do something,” he said.

Ivan Pereira