NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will encourage the NYPD to be "aggressive and creative" while abiding by the constitution in a crackdown against panhandlers — expressing frustration that it is not illegal.
After a press conference in the East Village about the city's multimillion-dollar effort to reduce the rat population, the mayor was asked about panhandlers at nearby Tompkins Square Park.
He responded by doubling down on statements made on his weekly radio show in which he urged New Yorkers not to give money to beggars.
"I am very upset at the notion of anyone who in effect gives people the impression they’re homeless to make money," he said.
"The NYPD has to be rightfully very discerning about whether a law's been broken," he said, including panhandlers obstructing a person's right of way or menacing, which are both illegal.
Most of the time, people "don’t quite break any laws, but it's really a nuisance and it's really bad for the quality of life," the mayor added.
De Blasio — who said he's committed to reducing the inmate population at jails across the city — noted the issue is "thorny" because panhandling is not a crime.
"It bothers me to say this, panhandling per se is not illegal," he said.
He'd like officers to increase enforcement anyway — without violating any constitutional rights.
"While abiding by the constitution, we will be as aggressive as we can be, that’s the bottom line," he said. "We must observe people's constitutional rights, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be aggressive and creative, so again if we see anything that’s illegal, NYPD will be all over it."
The NYPD did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Last week, de Blasio said giving to panhandlers is "not ultimately the way to change anyone's life" and encouraged people to get them help by calling 311.
The city's Thrive NYC initiative, created by First Lady Chirlane McCray, could also help those who may be mentally ill and asking for money, he said.
"With folks who are panhandling for a living or somehow they think it's fun, we’re still going to try and engage them, let them know its not a positive activity and if they want help with something better, we'll certainly help, job training or whatever it might be, we'll help," he said.