NYPD Cracks Down on Fake and Obscured License Plates

By Matis Glenn


NEW YORK —  Drivers are being put on notice to stop using fake temporary or obstructed license plates, called “ghost cars,” lest their cars be towed and auctioned off, Mayor Eric Adams announced Tuesday. City officials say that the untraceable cars are contributing greatly to the rise of car accidents, are used by criminals to avoid detection, and that they rob the city of revenue from tolls.

 Cars with paper license plates from out-of-state became a common sight in New York City during the pandemic, as drivers were unable to register newly purchased used cars at the Department of Motor Vehicles without waiting several weeks or months.

They would often purchase cars from dealers in neighboring New Jersey; a state which grants temporary plates to licensed dealers. Residents of New York would then wait until they were able to register their cars properly at the DMV.

New York, however, does not permit dealers to issue temporary plates.

Many fraudsters took advantage of the pandemic to peddle fake temporary plates with names of a variety of states printed on them, advertising their ‘services’ online and even promising insurance to be bundled with the sham plates. They are still readily available online. Some simply email a PDF document to their customers, who printed the plates themselves on water-resistant linen paper.

A Staples employee told Hamodia that they stopped allowing customers to print such plates, as they are usually illegal.  

Not everyone who buys these plates has pure motives, especially now that the DMV has resumed pre-pandemic in-person registration services.

“We are towing ghost cars because we know the drivers of these cars are up to no good,” said Mayor Adams. “The law is coming after anyone who tries to make their car untraceable. We will not allow vehicles to be weaponized and our streets to be turned into a battlefield.”

“An illegal license plate is not a harmless act,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks. “It is a clear indication that a person is not willing 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.”

On June 25, 2022, a stolen Honda with an incorrect, expired South Carolina license plate evaded a car stop in Brooklyn and struck several people, fatally injuring a 67-year-old grandmother and critically injuring an 8-year-old boy.

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. In addition, the Sheriff’s Office has seized over 800 vehicles since July 2021, most of which had fictitious license plates from various states. Arrests involving vehicles that displayed temporary paper plates rose to 3,568 in 2021, a 300% increase compared to 893 arrests effected in 2016 involving those vehicles.

A statewide database the Sheriff’s Office and NYPD officers rely on to help keep the city’s roads safe includes temporary paper plate information from just 11 of 50 states – making it difficult for officers on patrol effecting investigatory car stops to obtain routine registration data.

“We are committed to taking these vehicles out of circulation. If your vehicle is parked with a fraudulent or obstructed plate, it will be ticketed, towed, and removed to an NYPD tow pound,” said NYPD Chief of Transportation Kim Y. Royster. “The safety of all New Yorkers is our top priority and traffic safety is public safety.”

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