Let’s clear something up – despite some justifiable concerns from City Hall, not every costumed performer on the Boardwalk is a child molester.
Of the four street performers this newspaper has met, one is a long-time local who made his own costume. Another is a part-time resident from Minnesota, and bought his costume off Ebay. Two more are Eastern European J-1 students who share their costumes with friends, who also bought them off Ebay.
They all do it between shifts at their regular hotel or restaurant jobs. Unlike the infamous Times Square characters in New York, none of them are pushy with tourists to donate. Many visitors don’t tip. $10 an hour is average for weeknights, maybe a bit more on the weekends.
Some do it more for the fun. They’re entertainers – it’s how they unwind, rather than going on an alcohol-fueled rampage that ends with a contribution to this month’s OCPD Taser stats. The OCPD has logged 22 reported rapes and 37 other sexual offenses so far this year. None of them, that we are aware of, have come from costumed performers.
The vast majority of public support for any measures against Boardwalk characters will come from people who simply don’t like the idea of them (or, conversely, like the idea of being judgmental without cause).
The truth is, the proliferation of costumed characters is a symptom, not the disease. And the desire to put on a Disney suit and make a few bucks is not reason enough itself to get shaken down by the police.
If this is the legal theory the town is operating under, it may as well start doing background checks on every visitor. Voluntarily choosing a vacation destination where every other shop sells some T-shirts with offensive terms could also be construed as evidence of sexual perversion.