It's a minor inconvenience that many New York City subway riders have grown accustomed to. Athletic pole dancers turning tricks on subway trains for a little pocket change. In response to complaints from commuters who are not impressed with the pole skills, the New York Police Department is cracking down on the public annoyance.
Police Commissioner William Bratton acknowledges he is targeting subway acrobats as part of his embrace of the "broken windows" theory of policing -- that low-grade lawlessness can cultivate a greater sense of disorder and embolden more dangerous offenders.
"Is it a significant crime? Certainly not," Bratton said recently. But the question is, he added, "Does it have the potential both for creating a level of fear as well as a level of risk that you want to deal with?"
The subway acrobats say they're just out to entertain, make a living and put a little communal levity in New York's no-eye-contact commuting.
"We all, as New Yorkers, get these force fields around us. We just try to go inside the train and change the vibe," said a performer named Besnkheru, who, because of the crackdown, spoke on the condition that his full name not be used.
"It's such a part of New York culture," said rider Joli Tribuzio, an actress.
But other passengers resent becoming a captive audience for acrobats and break-dancers in a cramped subway car.
"I don't like all that action right in front of my face," rider Kesia Hudson said.