Elmo held as New York cops probe harassment

A MAN dressed as Elmo has been arrested by police as part of a crackdown on harassment in New York.

A man dressed as Elmo was arrested along with Spider-Man and Iron Man. Picture: AP

Cops in the Big Apple have been handing out leaflets to tourists in Times Square informing that tipping the people dressed as superheroes who pose for photos is optional, and to dial 911 if they have complaints.

The fliers are part of a police drive to stamp out tourist harassment in the iconic district, following a number of arrests.

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Printed in five different languages, the leaflets say ‘tipping is optional’ in capital letters, and were issued in partnership with the Times Square Alliance for promoting area businesses.

The fliers add that tourists can talk to a police officer or call 911 if they have any complaints.

NYPD confirmed that three characters had been arrested at the weekend, including Iron Man, Elmo and Spider-Man. It was not made clear if it was the same Spider-Man detained in July for punching a police officer in an argument over tips.

A second Iron Man was given a court summons by police.

All those arrested were charged disorderly conduct for a number of offences, including obstructing pedestrians, while Spider-Man faces charges of aggressive solicitation.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has previously voiced his concerns over the craze, while city Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for the characters’ behaviour to be regulated.

Jose Escalona-Martinez, who dresses as Batman, told local media that the US Constitution gave him the right to wear whatever he wanted to in Times Square, adding: “If [police] want to do that job, passing out fliers, not looking for real crimes, it’s fine with us.”