Police in New York stop 73 ghost automobiles, 8 of which have drivers

In a significant operation this week, a collaborative effort between New York City and State Police resulted in the arrest of eight individuals and the seizure of 73 vehicles. These vehicles, known colloquially as “ghost cars,” are notorious for their forged or altered license plates, rendering them invisible to traffic cameras and toll readers.

This lack of traceability has become a substantial issue, as highlighted by Janno Lieber, the CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), who pointed out that toll-dodging drivers are causing an annual loss of approximately $50 million to the MTA, effectively siphoning off public funds.

The operation, which marks a concerted crackdown on these elusive vehicles, was strategically executed on Monday with the establishment of three checkpoints at critical entry points into Manhattan: the Lincoln Tunnel, George Washington Bridge, and Robert F. Kennedy Bridge.

The effort was not only about seizures and arrests but also about broader enforcement, as evidenced by the issuance of 282 summonses by the joint task force.

Governor Kathy Hochul expressed a strong stance against these so-called ghost vehicles at a news conference at the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. “Today the Ghostbusters have arrived. We’re going after the ghost vehicles. The gig is up,” declared Hochul, underscoring the government’s commitment to tackling this pervasive issue.

The pandemic era saw a rise in the use of altered and counterfeit paper license plates, with some drivers exploiting this anonymity for more heinous activities, including hit-and-runs, armed robberies, and even shootings. This uptick in criminal use of ghost cars prompted intensified law enforcement responses.

According to recent releases, the New York City Police Department and the New York City Sheriff’s Office have, in the years 2022 and 2023, arrested nearly 11,200 drivers, impounded an equal number of vehicles, and issued over 21,200 court summonses for moving violations associated with these ghost cars.

Looking forward, the task force plans to continue its vigilant enforcement through eight-hour operations staged at various New York City locations on a monthly basis. This ongoing effort reflects a clear message from city officials: no individual 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,” stated New York Mayor Eric Adams, emphasizing the city’s resolve to address this challenge head-on.

The crackdown on ghost cars is a vital step toward enhancing public safety and ensuring the integrity of the city’s transportation systems. By addressing this issue, New York authorities aim to restore fairness and accountability on the roads, ensuring that all drivers contribute their fair share to the city’s infrastructure and public services.

This operation not only signifies a significant victory against urban crime but also serves as a stern warning to those considering flouting vehicle registration and identification laws.