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Old 09-10-2019, 11:53 AM
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Default Times Square’s ‘creepy’ costumed characters are out of control

https://nypost.com/2019/09/09/times-...ontrol-survey/

Times Square’s ‘creepy’ costumed characters are out of control
By Elizabeth Rosner, Ben Cohn and Aaron Feis
September 9, 2019 | 6:00pm | Updated

That’s a lot of tickling.

The Times Square Elmo busted for grabbing a 14-year-old girl’s rear while posing for a photo is far from an isolated incident, according to a new report that found the handsy panhandlers touched an average 24 people per hour without consent.

“This is Times Square. Quirky is fine, but creepy is not,” said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance, which commissioned the report and also found that more than a third of American tourists had a gripe with the costumed creeps.

Forty-seven percent of New Yorkers said that they’ve had an “unpleasant interaction” with one of the pushy plushies or other street hustlers at the Crossroads of the World in the past year.

And 22% of city residents said that their bad experience has included “unwanted physical contact” — a complaint also made by 15% of out-of-towners.

While those uninvited touches include non-sexual contact — such as grabbing one’s arm to reel them in for a photo — respondents also flagged more troubling interactions.

“Elmo character tried to touch my breast during photo op then became very agitated and hostile because I did not offer him money right away,” said one person surveyed, Joni, 68.

Added Denise, 42, “I kept saying ‘We don’t want a photo, do not touch my son,’ but it didn’t do anything.”

Since 2016, Times Square has had “designated activity zones” to which costumed characters are supposed to confine their shtick, but they often overreach their bounds, sometimes in an attempt to pull passersby close to them.

The unnerving study also included periodic spot checks of one Times Square plaza, which found an average of 24 unwanted touches per hour during the area’s busiest times.

Looking only at peak hours and months, the survey extrapolated that rate out to a horrifying 120,000 to 160,000 such incidents per year.

Observers kept watch over one Times Square plaza on Wednesday nights through May and June, then extrapolated the average of 24 incidents spotted hourly across three designated zones, six to eight hours a day, seven days a week and 40 weeks a year, discounting winter months.

One of those contacts veered into the criminal Saturday night, when Inocente Andrade-Pacheco — done up as Sesame Street fuzzball Elmo — allegedly grabbed a teen girl’s rear while posing for a picture, according to officials.

Andrade-Pacheco, 54, denied any wrongdoing and was released without bail at his Sunday night arraignment on charges including sexual abuse and forcible touching.

A neighbor in Andrade-Pacheco’s Passaic, NJ, apartment building said that she was caught off guard by the allegations — and was choosing to believe the contact was accidental.

“This shocks me. He’s a good guy, he has a family, he has kids,” said Lidia Benetiz. “I’m shocked because I don’t think he did it on purpose.”

But Times Square gawkers said Monday that they didn’t want to leave it up to interpretation.

“They need to remove all those guys or they need to do really deep background checks. We don’t know who is behind the mask,” said a dad who gave his name as Victor as he strolled with his 8-year-old daughter.

“We had an incident in 2013 with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse,” said Victor. “We analyzed the photo and didn’t like the way Mickey Mouse was touching her.”

Added Nancy Saloma, visiting from Atlanta with her own 8-year-old daughter, “That does concern me. You’re here just to take pictures with them.

“I can’t imagine how a parent must feel seeing their daughter touched by Elmo in front of them.”
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