Man Dressed As ‘Toy Story’ Character Arrested In Times Square On Sex Abuse Charges
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Another costumed character has apparently been caught misbehaving in Times Square.
Jose Vasquez, 44, was charged with multiple counts of sex abuse and forcible touching after police said they saw him groping women in Times Square while dressed as Woody from “Toy Story,” WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported Friday.
Vasquez will be back in court on Jan. 21. His bond was set at $1,500.
The Times Square Alliance is now calling for greater regulations of costumed characters.
“This is the latest in a long series of disturbing incidents that reinforce our belief that these costume characters must be licensed and regulated,” president Tim Tompkins said in a statement.
Gia Storms with the Times Square Alliance told CBS 2’s Alice Gainer incidents like Friday’s have been going on for about a year and a half. She said on any given day there can be up to 60 unregulated characters out here.
“The first time we heard about this was a co-worker who came into the office and said ‘on my way to work today Elmo just pinched me on the bottom,'” Storms said.
“Some of them can be up in your face,” Storms added. “There a little bit of pushing and shoving to try and get tips.”
Tompkins suggests characters wear badges with license numbers so they could be easily identified, Diamond reported.
In February, a 35-year-old man was accused of punching a woman in the face while in a Spider-Man costume after the woman said she didn’t have any money to pay for a photo with her children.
In December 2012, a 32-year-old Super Mario impersonator was charged with groping a woman.
Vallone had said police do not have the proper tools to deal with the situation.
A disorderly conduct charge would require blocking pedestrian traffic, which the costumed characters are not always doing, Vallone explained. Licensing laws only come into play when someone is selling something, and laws prohibiting wearing masks require two people working together, he added.
The characters are not regulated, but are instead considered street performers protected by the First Amendment.
Reasons and complaints are why the Times Square Alliance said it is planning to work with the new city administration and have been brainstorming ways to regulate the characters.
“It could be a consumer protection. It could be consumer safety. It could really be a lot of different areas, but there’s gotta be a way to make everybody register so we can take away the anonymity, so we know who these guys are behind the mask,” Storms told Gainer.
The people in the get-ups told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin they average about $50 a shift, but lately have not been making that much. They blame it on bad characters making it tough for everyone.
“It’s going to affect people getting near us,” one person dressed in a “Tigger” costume said.
“We’re not bad, you know?” a woman dressed up as “Minnie Mouse” added.
“We’re just trying to scrape up some dollars,” added J.r. Bishop, who was dressed like “Bugs Bunny.”
1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon spoke with visitors in Times Square who said they would support a regulation on the characters.
“I think they’re trying to make a living, which I understand, but maybe the city can license them somehow and make sure that they should be on the streets,” one man said.
“They get really annoying, they block traffic, I think that they should probably get a corral for them somewhere and stick them in a corner,” another man said.
Tompkins said he is “looking forward to working with the new administration and City Council to come up with an equitable and effective regulatory solution.”
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