Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Gersh Kuntzman

Googling Gersh Kuntzman’s ‘Criminal Mischief’? Look No Further…

It's been a big week for our editor Gersh Kuntzman's fight against people who deface or cover their plates to avoid being held accountable for reckless driving.


Check out “Criminal Mischief” on Spotify.

It's been a big week for our editor Gersh Kuntzman's fight against people who deface or cover their plates to avoid being held accountable for reckless driving.

First, he was honored by "Daily Show" correspondent Michael Kosta in a segment he calls, "Thank Me Later" (Kuntzman, of course, opted to thank him now):

Next up for Kuntzman was an appearance on Saturday's episode of "This American Life," featuring host Ira Glass doing a "criminal mischief" ride along with our "plucky" gray-beard — and portraying his efforts in a serious yet hilarious light. Click here to listen from The NY Times website for now.

These appearances follow Kuntzman's big splashes in GothamistNY1, the New York Times and even the vaunted New Yorker — all of which found his campaign to rein in reckless drivers worthy of mirthful attention.

The recent flurry of media spots is no doubt connected to the coming of congestion pricing — but most miss the central point of Kuntzman's crusade. This is not only about lost revenue or the success of a tolling system that will require readable license plates in order to charge drivers to enter Manhattan below 60th Street (as well as recoup some of the societal cost of all the other deleterious effects on our city of driving).

But it's also about accountability. People forget why Kuntzman got into his campaign of "criminal mischief" in the first place: When New York City's traffic cameras were turned on 24 hours a day, seven days a week in 2022, defacing and obscuring of license plates soared. By obscuring the numbers on their plates, those drivers were saying clearly that they wanted to speed in school zones or run red lights with impunity.

The fact that most of them were cops and other law-enforcement officials just made it more interesting, as Kuntzman reported.

Of course, none of this could have happened without lawyer Adam White, whose November 2022 arrest for "criminal mischief" after fixing a covered plate set the tone for all future coverage.

That inspired Kuntzman's band Jimmy and the Jaywalkers to record a Dylanesque folk song (embedded below with lyrics) in hopes of getting the charges dismissed (they were). In the end, the song itself inspired Kuntzman to take up the campaign — and now there are about 250 videos on his X feed.

Here's one of our favorites:

That guy ended up being fired!

Maybe he'll give a listen to the song?

Read the lyrics to "Criminal Mischief" below

A friend I know was biking to work
He noticed something really untoward
Ahead he saw a total jerk who had
Done somethin' tot'ly absurd

A piece of tape it covered his plate
He’d turned a letter B to an E
My friend he couldn’t abdicate — NO
He couldn’t let this scofflaw go free

But the cops call it criminal mischief
They’ll charge you in the fourth degree
The cops call it criminal mischief
It’s whatever they decree

The driver saw my friend make the fix
He said that he was calling the cops
My friend took a number of pics cause
He knew the law from bottom to tops

But the driver had some friends in high places
The po po put my friend in the can
They took away his belt and his laces
You simply cannot battle the man

The cops call it criminal mischief
They simply do not wanna hear
The cops call it criminal mischief
Their motives are so clear

You can fight the law they say
But the law will always win
You can claim you know wrong from right
But the truth is paper thin

The judge ordered my friend remanded
"This case raises all kinds of doubts
The biker needs to be reprimanded
That’s what they’d want down at the precinct house."

So next time when you’re riding your bike
You better keep your hands to yourself
The cops will side with perps that they like
Don’t try to fool yourself

The cops call it criminal mischief
You’re the person who’s gonna hang
The cops call it criminal mischief
The public they’ll defang

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Map: How Did Community Boards Vote on ‘City of Yes’ Housing Plan

With most of the community board recommendations in, Streetsblog mapped where residents are saying "yes" to more housing and less parking.

July 22, 2024

Friday’s Headlines: Hochul’s Fantasy World Edition

The governor has gone off the deep end. Plus other news.

July 19, 2024

Speaker Adams: Council May Not Use its ‘Sammy’s Law’ Power to Lower Speed Limits

The Council may not lower the speed limit, even though it fought so hard to get that very right from the state legislature.

July 19, 2024

Parks Dept. Has Money But No Timeline to Finish Eastern Queens Greenway

There's tens of millions of dollars for the greenway, so when will parks build it?

July 19, 2024

Thursday’s Headlines: Paris is a Lot Cooler than NYC Edition

The City of Light has figured out how to reduce the heat island effect. Plus other news in today's daily digest.

July 18, 2024
See all posts