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New York State DMV

ROWBACK: State DMV Clarifies How to Rat Out Help Out Your Plate-Defacing Neighbor

12:01 AM EST on February 13, 2023

Give him your tired, your poorly treated plates. Or not.

On second thought, don't send him your pictures of your neighbors' defaced plates!

How Streetsblog covered the big story.
How Streetsblog covered the big story.

After Streetsblog reported earlier this week that Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Mark Schroeder wanted New Yorkers to email or send pictures of defaced plates to him — him personally! — the state's car-registration agency clarified that members of the public should not flood the commissioner, but email a different office to seek replacement plates for their scofflaw neighbors.

The clarification was necessary because Schroeder was apparently joking when he told Assembly Member Emily Gallagher a legislative hearing on Monday that if constituents are upset at plate defacers, they should take pictures and "send them to me."

"Tell them, 'Send them to Schroeder,'" the commissioner added.

As it turns out, um, that's not what Schroeder meant in this brief exchange:

Reactions on social media were quick ... and harsh.

"Wow — he is truly clueless!!!" Steve Kopstein wrote under the YouTube video. "Needs to be replaced. He doesn't understand the problem."

Another commenter Marius Facktor also chimed in: "It's astonishing that the head of the DMV doesn't know people obscure their plates to avoid paying tolls and tickets. Everybody else knows this is a problem, how in the world does this guy not know? Car drivers are scratching and covering up their plates to avoid accountability when they hit and kill pedestrians. That's why this is so urgent."

Amid the brouhaha, DMV Deputy Commissioner for Communications and Customer Service Lisa Koumjian wanted to set the record straight about what it hopes to achieve with its plate replacement program. "The DMV has an established process for replacing plates and that is the process individuals should follow if their plate is in poor condition," Koumjian told Streetsblog on Thursday. "Customers can email or call our Custom Plates Unit at (518) 402-4838. This is the most efficient method of notifying the department, but the bottom line is if New Yorkers do the right thing, there would no need to report someone else’s plate to the Commissioner or otherwise."

Judging from three months of Twitter videos showing copious examples of New Yorkers not doing the right thing, Streetsblog (and others on the internet) asked Koumjian what people should do if they see something and want to say something — like about a neighbor with a defaced plate?

"If someone does report a plate that does not belong to them, the DMV can pursue replacement with the New York motorist if enough information is provided to identify the registrant."

Streetsblog asked about that process and it boils down to this: Take a picture of the plate. And write down the vehicle identification number of the car (which is on the New York State registration at the bottom right corner of the front windshield). And send those to DMV at Koumjian suggested that DMV would match the plate number and VIN to the registered owner and ... send that person new plates.

Here's a video explaining the process:

The process of getting your neighbor a new set of plates won't, of course, necessarily end with your neighbor installing the plates and never defacing them again. But Koumjian reminded New Yorkers that there's a process to handle that, too: If the plate is covered or intentionally defaced, "law enforcement should be notified of this criminal activity as they have the jurisdiction to cite the registrant," she said.

Jurisdiction, definitely; desire, not so much:

For an interactive version of this chart, click here
For an interactive version of this chart, click here

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