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ICYMI: Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams Launch Largest Interagency, City-State Task Force to Remove Dangerous Ghost Cars From City Streets

Bridges and Tunnels
Updated Mar 12, 2024 3:45 p.m.
Interagency City-State Ghost Car Task Force

First Joint Enforcement Operation Yesterday Resulted in 73 Cars Seized

NYPD, Other Law Enforcement Agencies Seized Record Number of Ghost Cars in 2023

View Photos of Law Enforcement Operation, Seized Vehicles, and Press Conference

View Video Footage of Law Enforcement Operation

View Video of Press Conference

Governor Kathy Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York City Police Department Commissioner Edward A. Caban, New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda, and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chair and CEO Janno Lieber today announced the launch of a multi-agency city-state task force dedicated to identifying and removing so-called “ghost cars” — cars that are virtually untraceable by traffic cameras and toll readers because of their forged or altered license plates — from New York City streets. Yesterday, in an overwhelmingly successful inter-agency operation involving the NYPD, the New York City Sheriff’s Office, MTA bridge and tunnel officers, the New York State Police, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, authorities impounded 73 cars, issued 282 summonses, and arrested eight individuals.

"By launching this city-state task force, we are sending a clear message: if you attempt to alter your license plate to avoid traffic cameras and toll readers, you will be caught," Governor Hochul said. "The safety of New Yorkers is my top priority and in partnership with Mayor Adams and law enforcement, we will swiftly remove elusive vehicles from our roads. Now, I'm calling on the Legislature to join our efforts and work with us to pass additional protections for New Yorkers in the final budget."

New York City Mayor Adams said, “Outlaws have been purchasing fake or paper license plates online to avoid tolls and tickets, as well as to evade accountability for serious crimes, but we’re pumping the brakes on the use of ‘ghost plates’ with the help of this multi-agency task force. Working in tandem with our city and state law enforcement partners, we impounded 73 vehicles, issued 282 summonses, and made eight arrests, and sent an important message to everyone who drives on the streets of our city: No one is above the law. These cars might not have license plates, but we’ve got their number, and we’re going after anyone who tries to make their car untraceable.”

The primary focus of the task force’s work is to remove vehicles with fraudulent or modified license plates — and those with no tags at all — from city streets, as these vehicles are often unregistered, uninsured, or stolen. While the illegal practice of forging or altering license plates is not new, the crime proliferated during the pandemic, with drivers masking their identities by using counterfeit temporary paper plates to evade detection. The fake “temp tags” appeared as though they were issued by out-of-state dealerships, making them difficult to verify. In some cases, vehicle operators in New York City used this cloak of anonymity to commit more serious violent crimes, including hit-and-runs, robberies, and shootings.

In her Executive Budget, Governor Hochul proposed legislation that would improve toll collections throughout the State by increasing fines and penalties for driving with altered plates, prohibiting the sale or distribution of covers that obscure license plates, allowing police to seize illegal plate covers, and restricting DMV registration transactions for vehicles with suspended registrations for failure to pay tolls or failing to remove plate-obscuring materials.

To combat this scourge during 2022 and 2023, the NYPD, the New York City Sheriff’s Office, and their law enforcement partners arrested nearly 11,200 drivers and impounded their vehicles, seized almost 12,900 additional vehicles, and issued motorists more than 21,200 moving violation summonses.

The NYPD’s Transportation Bureau established the inter-agency task force with the mission of conducting eight-hour enforcement operations approximately once a month. Times and locations around the city will be chosen after analyzing toll and motor vehicle data.

In its first outing yesterday, Monday, March 11, 2024, the task force performed traffic-safety actions at three river crossings that enter Manhattan: the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, and the Lincoln Tunnel. Law enforcement utilized marked police vehicles, including various-sized tow trucks, automated license plate reader technology, and officer observations. In addition to the outside agencies, NYPD units involved in the undertaking included the Highway Patrol, the Citywide Traffic Task Force, the Auto Crime Division, the Traffic Enforcement Division, the Aviation Unit, the Legal Bureau, Community Response Teams, and more.

New York State Police Acting Superintendent Steven G. James said, “We will continue to work in conjunction with our law enforcement partners to step up efforts and stop these criminals who are using these ghost plates to obscure their identities and perpetuate other heinous crimes. We have no tolerance for individuals who try to circumvent the law, and they will be held accountable for their actions.”

MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said, “Toll-dodging drivers cost the MTA an estimated $50 million every year — money that could be reinvested into modernizing the New York City transit system. That’s the public’s money they’re taking. And we can’t stand for it. So, if you have anything like that affixed to your plate, it would be smart to remove it. Because you could be stopped by a Bridge and Tunnel officer, or by any of our partner agencies. And we will collect on the money you owe us.”

New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder said, “This multi-jurisdictional collaboration is a big step forward in the fight against a dangerous and pervasive problem, and the NYS DMV is proud to support this important work. So called ‘ghost plates’ put the safety of all New Yorkers at risk, so we will continue working with our partners to strengthen their enforcement efforts and hold individuals accountable.” 

New York Police Department Commissioner Edward A. Caban said, “This multiagency taskforce has a clear and well-defined purpose: Locate illegal and unregistered vehicles travelling in and around our city, get them off our streets, and hold the people driving them accountable. Over the years, our department has seen a clear connection between these illegal vehicles and violent crime. And we’re here today, with our valued law enforcement partners, to assure New Yorkers that this lawlessness will never be tolerated. This taskforce is a talented, diverse team dedicated to keeping our roadways — and the neighborhoods they run through — safe. It is all part of our intelligence-driven approach to precision policing, and it is another example of how interagency cooperation makes our city better, and makes us all safer.”

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Rick Cotton said, “If you try to evade the tolls at any of the region’s crossings, you will be caught and prosecuted. The Port Authority is committed to working with our task force partners in taking aggressive action against any motorist using fake and obstructed license plates. We are using unique, innovative law enforcement methods now at our disposal to seek out those who don’t pay. Our collective toll dollars are critical to upkeep of the region’s critical crossings.”