July 5, 2022
– Mayor Eric Adams, the New York City Sheriff’s Office and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) today warned drivers that the NYPD and Sheriff’s Office will tow – and possibly could auction – vehicles taken with false illegal paperwork. license plates.
As of July 3, 2022, the NYPD has issued 16,448 tickets to drivers for using illegal or obstructed license plates, towed 1,700 vehicles, and seized 2,478 vehicles. Additionally, the sheriff’s office has seized more than 800 vehicles since July 2021, most of which had fictitious license plates from various states. Arrests involving vehicles displaying temporary paper plates rose to 3,568 in 2021, a 300% increase from the 893 arrests made in 2016 involving these vehicles.
“We tow ghost cars because we know the drivers of these cars are useless,” said Mayor Adams. “The law goes after anyone who tries to make their car untraceable. We will not allow vehicles to be armed and our streets to be turned into a battlefield.”
“An illegal license plate is not a trivial act,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks. “It’s a clear indication that a person is unwilling to operate within the most basic legal framework of society. Ghost cars and the reckless behavior of their owners are a threat to every New Yorker on the road. I applaud the mayor’s efforts to address this issue head-on.
“The issue of ensuring that legitimate and legible license plates remain a viable tool in our collective efforts to keep streets safe demands our immediate attention, at all levels,” said Police Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell. “The urgency of this issue is reflected in the continued efforts of the NYPD. We will defeat this threat to public safety. We will eliminate the fake and obscured license plates that create what is essentially a class of untraceable ghost cars moving among us. And we need all of our law enforcement and government partners to walk with us in that same direction.
“Under Mayor Adams’ leadership, we’ve created a robust ghost car enforcement initiative that addresses a multitude of public safety concerns,” said Sheriff Anthony Miranda. “Working with our law enforcement partners, we seized over 800 vehicles most of which had fictitious license plates from various state jurisdictions. During the inventory of these seized vehicles, we discovered 5 firearms, narcotics, false identification documents and dozens of false license plates inside these vehicles.
On June 25, 2022, a stolen Honda with an incorrect and expired license plate from South Carolina escaped a car stop in Brooklyn and struck several people, fatally injuring a 67-year-old grandmother and seriously injuring a boy 8 years old.
Like the elusive firearms known as “ghost guns” that claim horrific death tolls from gunshots, “ghost cars” – vehicles bearing illegal and counterfeit license plates – are fueling an epidemic of virtually untraceable cars that injure and kill pedestrians, cyclists and our most vulnerable – including the elderly, children and other at-risk groups. State vehicle and traffic laws—as well as New York City traffic rules—are clear: License plates must be easily identifiable. Covering a car’s license plate with any material or substance that covers, obscures, or distorts it is illegal in New York. It is also illegal to sell such coatings within the city limits.
Vehicles with fraudulent or obstructed license plates towed by the NYPD and Sheriff’s Office are often not redeemed and sent to auction. About 25% of the 5,500 vehicles with paper plates found in violation and towed by the NYPD Traffic Police District last year were abandoned by their owners. Until June 2022, 562 of the 1,646 towed vehicles with paper plates have also not been exchanged. The Bronx, in both years, led the city in the number of such vehicles towed. Additionally, approximately 60% of paper plate vehicles seized by the sheriff’s office are auctioned off as a result of these cars being abandoned.
Additionally, through June, police and traffic wardens issued a total of 13,250 parking warnings to vehicles with covered license plates, a 33% increase from the 9,956 warnings issued. at the same time last year.
The NYPD is focused on the work of patrol officers in all 77 precincts, in all neighborhoods, to crack down on hidden and illegal plates. Additionally, several government agencies working with the NYPD attend weekly Road Safety Forum meetings to share information on best practices and holistic approaches to road safety. The sheriff’s office has also conducted operations in 18 different precincts across the city since July 2021.
The 2022 Vehicle License Plate Task Force, an intelligence-driven effort that pulls together the coordinated work of NYPD Patrol Services, Legal Offices and Transportation with the Detective Bureau’s Auto Crime Unit for investigations and incorporates the expertise of multiple city and state agencies, including the sheriff’s office. The task force is focused on the goal of creating safe and navigable roads for all New Yorkers by addressing the growing problem of illegal and obscured license plates. These plates and illegal objects that obstruct the reading of plates on vehicles present countless dangers on highways and city roads.
The NYPD chaired several interagency meetings of the 2022 License Plate Task Force on the proliferation of illegal and obscured license plates. Its partners participating in these ongoing discussions include law enforcement colleagues from multiple agencies as well as representatives from a wide range of regional government entities and authorities.
Obstructed and temporary paper plates, whether legal or illegal, swindle the city’s speed cameras and red lights, leading to an increase in dangerous traffic violations. Paper temporary license plates can easily be found for sale and purchased online. A statewide database that Sheriff’s Office and NYPD officers rely on to keep city roads safe includes temporary paper plate information from just 11 of 50 states , making it difficult for officers on patrol performing survey car stops to obtain routine registration data.
Problematic license plates are often linked to crime. Vehicles with such plates are often used in violence and major crimes. During the inventory of the seized vehicles, the sheriff’s office discovered 5 firearms, narcotics, false identity cards and dozens of false license plates inside these vehicles.
The task force’s approach also involves NYPD tow operations. It is illegal to drive vehicles with fraudulent or obstructed license plates in New York. It is also illegal to park such vehicles on city streets. The NYPD’s strategy is to focus precisely on where these vehicles are parked – often at night – so they can be towed to safety.
“During the pandemic, DOT has seen an alarming increase in the number of fake and temporary license plates on vehicles, which evade our automated enforcement and, worse, have been implicated in an increasing number of fatal accidents at high speed,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “Now, under Mayor Adams, we will have both 24/7 radar coverage starting August 1, as well as this serious crackdown on fake plates. We are grateful to our Sheriff and NYPD partners for their comprehensive plan to remove these cars safely and efficiently, which will immediately make our streets safer.
“We are committed to removing these vehicles from circulation. If your vehicle is parked with a fraudulent or obstructed plate, it will be ticketed, towed, and transferred to an NYPD towing impound,” said NYPD Transportation Chief Kim Y. Royster. “The safety of all New Yorkers is our top priority and traffic safety is public safety.”
Removing vehicles with illegal fake paper license plates from the road is the first step to ensuring safer roads in New York and the Tri-State Area,” said Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, New York City Council Majority Whip. “Paper license plates have become ubiquitous due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, these seemingly untraceable vehicles have become associated with illegal activity, fatal car crashes and other vehicle incidents that exacerbate the need to end their broadcast. I commend Mayor Adams, Police Commissioner Sewell, and DOT Commissioner Rodriguez for their foresight in convening the 2022 Vehicle License Plate Task Force and expediting the removal and the potential auction of these vehicles to help thwart illegal activity in New York.