Around New York City, one often hears petulant calls for the city to return to the days when it was "real," meaning infested with crime, rather than with Pret A Manger locations. Such pleas are immature. Crime should only be returned to the Times Square area.
This is not some nostalgia-addled bleat for the "Times Square of old," populated by cheap strip clubs and X-rated theaters and wall-to-wall hookers. That sounds fun, sure. The hookers, especially. Man. All those hookers. Can you imagine? Just imagine it.
Stop imagining it. The Times Square of old is long gone. That ship has sailed. And it has docked, today, in an Olive Garden. Times Square in 2014 is populated by comically overpriced strip clubs, massive chain movie theaters, and wall-to-wall tourists. Until the dirty bomb hits, it is not changing back.
And therein lies the problem. The god damn tourists. They are the single worst demographic group in New York City. Far more dangerous to the smooth functioning of society than alcoholics, or mobsters, or juvenile gang members. Tourists, like an infestation of army ants, turn every sidewalk for thirty square blocks around Times Square into a shuffling, bumbling parade of random movement that moves at the collective speed of lava proceeding into the sea from Mt. Kilauea. This human centipede of pedestrian blockage is clothed in the tackiest plumage, cackling at top volume, and prone to whirling about rapidly with an unfolded map in hand, smacking everyone in a five-foot radius in the face. And, at night, drunk. So drunk. Tourists are drunk. And not fun drunks. "Your mom is drunk" drunk.
"Well, just stay out of Times Square," you say. Great idea, until your parents visit and take you to a Broadway play, or you get a temp job at an office on 43rd St., or the train stalls and you have to get out and walk down 8th avenue past the ESPN Zone. It is neither practical nor just to tell people who live in New York to forfeit a large chunk of their city to a bunch of lost, obnoxious revenue-producers. We did that once. It's called "Wall Street." We can't afford to sacrifice any more territory. It's crowded here.
Police cannot regulate tourists. They're not breaking any laws, just basic standards of human conduct. Neither will politicians or corporate interests regulate tourists; they're making too much money off them. You know what would really keep this plague of tourists in check though? Some good old fashioned criminals.
Nothing terrible. We don't need any murders. Just a simple diet of muggings, purse snatchings, pickpocketing, smooth-talking hustlers, and Three Card Monte dealers. Tourists enjoy being ripped off legally, by the fine folks at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. They do not enjoy being ripped off illegally, by being mugged and then pickpocketed and then stripped of their final nickel by a shell game operator. Tourists resent that. Street crime tends to generate very negative reviews on Yelp.
Prisons are overcrowded. Solid employment is hard to come by. Tourists plague our city. All of these problems can be solved by throwing open the jails, paroling everyone directly into Times Square, and allowing a thriving, authentic, historically accurate culture of grifting and robbery to spring up organically in The Crossroads of the World. Designate it as a protected urban cultural zone. Do not fear lost revenue. Quite the opposite. Tourists will flock to see what Authentic Gritty New York City looks like. Then they will flock out at equal speed after being robbed. For paroled felons, locked out of most gainful employment by discrimination and economic inequality, the wallets of the tourists of Times Square will provide a much needed source of financial support for those willing to do the work. Indeed, under this plan, tourists will have their hands up—not a hand out. The rest of New York City, where real people live, will continue to enjoy the crime reductions that have been so critical to the past two decades of the city's growth. Those who have suffered in jail for years are given meaningful jobs. And the sidewalks will finally be clear enough to fucking walk down.
We can also bring back the hookers if you guys want (I have no preference).