Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Eric Adams

UNMASKED: NYPD Van Driver Pulled Over for Obscured License Plate 

3:21 PM EDT on July 6, 2022

We’ve seen it all at police station houses: covered plates, defaced plates, erased plates.

Mayor Adams’s crackdown on illegal plates has already been unmasked (literally).

State troopers on Wednesday pulled over members of New York’s Finest for using a blue surgical mask to cover the license plate of their van — a typical technique used by scofflaw motorists to illegally obscure plates and evade tickets for reckless driving — just one day after Adams vowed to crack down on that very practice.

Perhaps cops didn't get their own memo (or, more likely, don't believe it applies to them).

The state cops let the drivers go without a ticket after they revealed they were operating what they claimed was an undercover police vehicle, despite it having an expired NYPD placard on its dash, according to WNYC transportation reporter Stephen Nessen, who spotted the van on his way to an unrelated press conference.

“The state of play: State police pull over this van with obscured plates … only to discover its [sic] an 'undercover' NYPD officer,” Nessen tweeted on Wednesday morning in Lower Manhattan. "NYPD pulls off the obscured plate. No ticket issued. NYPD waves to me as they drive away. State police says sometimes I issue a ticket sometimes I don’t."

Police on patrol often let their comrades go, but automated enforcement cameras don't discriminate. The plate associated with the van in Nessen's tweet has been slapped with a whopping 136 tickets for speeding in school zones and 16 for blowing through red lights since March 2019, according to How’s My Driving — far more than enough to require the owner of the vehicle to be required to take a safe driving course or have the vehicle seized by the sheriff under the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program.

The majority of the tickets were earned on Staten Island, the records show. It’s unclear who was driving at the time of each ticket. The NYPD declined to answer specific questions about the incident, including what the van was being used, who paid for the tickets, or if those driving it would be reprimanded in any way, but said in a statement after initial publication of this story that it is now "under internal review."

The unidentified drivers of the white 2019 Chevrolet are exactly who Adams and NYPD Transportation Bureau Chief Kim Royster were talking about on Wednesday when they discussed “ghost cars." Royster said the NYPD is stepping up its efforts against cars "with fake obscured license plates speeding through our school zones, where our children are playing,” and “driving through red lights and hitting pedestrians and other vehicles, causing serious injuries, and then driving away."

“If you dare to obscure your real license plate, or if you affix an altered or forged temporary plate to your vehicle, we are out there right now in real time looking for your car and looking for you,” Royster said. “I want it to be clear: this is not a summer initiative, or a July crackdown. This is an active, ongoing part of the daily and nightly work of every NYPD police officer and investigator.”

The cops may think they’re above the law when it comes to enforcing street-level crime such as placard abuse, reckless driving, and plate defacement, but they’re not above causing injuries, and even death.

Back in April, the driver of an NYPD van driver hit and killed a 53-year-old man who was “standing within the center median” on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn.

And in October 2020, Police Officer Ceasar Munoz fatally struck 20-year-old Sofia Gomez Aguilon as he sped at 60 miles-per-hour through a red light on Pelham Parkway in the Bronx.

“We hope that the city acknowledges the enormity of this tragedy,” the victim’s family’s personal injury attorney Louis Grandelli said at the time.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Congestion Pricing Opponents Are Blocking Disabled Access to Mass Transit, Politicians Charge

Just as the MTA begins speeding up new elevator construction, congestion pricing opponents are poised to stop it.

February 23, 2024

Legislation Introduced in Georgia to Fight Temporary License Plate Fraud

The bill is the most significant effort yet to stop the flow of fraudulent paper tags from Georgia car dealerships to New York City streets.

February 23, 2024

Community Board Backs DOT Road Diet for Brooklyn’s Deadly Third Av.

“This is just a beginning of what we could do to fix our community,” said one board member. “This is not done, this is not where we finish off.”

February 23, 2024

Friday’s Headlines: More Lunch Consumption Edition

Streetfilms goes to Paris. Plus more news.

February 23, 2024

Advocates Slam Albany Pols for Using Transit Fund to Encourage Driving

Gov. Hochul and state legislators in Albany are spending a congestion pricing-adjacent fund on toll rebates for drivers and showing zero interest in bus or rail, transit advocates charged.

February 23, 2024
See all posts