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NYPD launches new program to address vendor, panhandler activity on New York highways

“We can’t arrest our way out of these situations,” said Officer Leedroige Manuel

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By Amanda Spence

NEW YORK — In an attempt to stop vendors and panhandlers from standing in the middle of highways, the New York Police Department is expanding its efforts in a joint venture with other agencies.

CBS2’s Ali Bauman rode with the NYPD’s Highway Patrol Unit during the operation, which law enforcement says addresses an increasing problem of panhandling and vendor sales on roadways, reports CBS New York.

“They are obstructing the vehicular traffic, posing a danger to themselves and the motorists,” Inspector Sylvester Ge, the commanding officer of the Highway Patrol Unit, said.

Bauman accompanied deputies on what was going to be their first joint operation with city social workers in an attempt to speak with these individuals on the highways.

“We can’t arrest our way out of these situations,” said Officer Leedroige Manuel. “We want to work and see what other options we can bring to the table, other things we can do, collaborate with other agencies and see how we can do to address these issues on the highway.”

However, things didn’t go as planned. Despite Mayor Eric Adams making it a point to fuse law enforcement with social workers in circumstances like these, the city’s Departments of Social Services and Worker Protection did not show up for the event due to internal scheduling problems, according to CBS New York. So, law enforcement took it upon themselves to complete the project on their own.

Officer Ronny Valdez spoke to four women who were selling fruit on the Cross Bronx Highway, providing them with resources for finding employment and warning that it’s illegal to work in the middle of highways.

One of the women, who spoke in Spanish, told Bauman she works there because she can’t find another job. She also admitted she doesn’t think it’s really dangerous, and she had yet to determine if she’d listen.

Valdez went on to explain that had social worker representatives been there, he would have been able to get “more concrete information” when it comes to where the women could go to get a job in a “safe environment.”

The Highway Patrol Unit plans to continue the program on a regular basis and will issue summonses if they see the same individuals.

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