Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Chief of Department Rodney Harrison pointed the finger at Times Square CD panhandlers for involvement in Sunday’s shooting as they promised to “flood the zone” with police.
Speaking at this morning’s press conference, the Mayor responded to another weekend shooting in Times Square, saying that it “is absolutely unacceptable and we will not tolerate,” adding that “this is a place that is so precious and so important to our city. It has to be safe.”
On Sunday evening, a 21-year-old Marine from upstate New York, Samuel Poulin, was struck by a bullet as groups of men argued outside the New York Marriott Marquis hotel on W45th Street. In May, three visitors, including a 4-year-old, were shot in Times Square just one block from yesterday’s incident.
Chief Harrison explained that they were seeing issues around soliciting and the “aggressive panhandling of CDs.” He stressed that the investigation was ongoing and another option for the dispute might be “street dancing.”
Talking about the increased police presence promised by the Mayor, Harrision said that NYPD were “going to try a different strategy and see if we can get undercover officers to find a way to engage these individuals that are soliciting these CDs to see if we could do a better job of enforcement in that area.”
The Mayor was questioned about Times Square already being seen as having a major police presence — and about the 80 extra officers that he had promised. In April, former NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan presented a plan to establish a new business improvement unit made up of 80 uniformed cops and supervisors with the goal to make people feel safe.
De Blasio said there would be a new focus on dealing “very aggressively with any illegal vending.”
Harrison said that in response to the shooting NYPD “is going to push a little further in engagement — making sure we’re not just having an army presence out there. We’re going to make sure we engage the individuals that are part of this aggressive solicitation, aggressive panhandling and that’s going to be a new thing going forward through the warmer months.” He said that NYPD would be working with other agencies including the Department of Consumer Affairs, DOT and the Times Square Alliance to “clean up that area.”
Tom Harris, President of the Times Square Alliance, said: “We wish Samuel Poulin a speedy recovery and thank him for his service to our country. Times Square is a reflection of the city to the world and this latest incident is the result of policies that do not focus on the enforcement of lower level offenses and embolden would-be criminals to carry weapons. We need sustained and effective tactics by all agencies and to provide law enforcement with the tools and support necessary to accomplish our shared goal of safety in our communities and town squares, and we need it now.”
Times Square is currently welcoming over 200,000 visitors a day at weekends — up from a low of 33,000 during the pandemic, but down from its typical pre-pandemic highs of more than 300,000 people a day.
Police released a video of the suspected gunman, a black male in his 20s.