Inside the NYPD unit cracking down on 'ghost cars' with illegal, fake license plates

Michelle Charlesworth Image
Thursday, December 14, 2023
Eyewitness News gets exclusive ride-along with NYPD to crack down on ghost cars
Michelle Charlesworth has the exclusive.

MARINERS HARBOR, Staten Island (WABC) -- NYPD has one message for drivers with fake license plates: "We're going to send a message; this is not tolerated."

Eyewitness News was along for the ride on Staten Island as police arrested people with fake tags.

Three drivers were pulled almost immediately into the ridealong.

"If it's paper plates, it's a ghost car," said Highway District 5 Lieutenant Joseph Bell. "We don't know who it's coming back to."

Officers on Staten Island said they have made twice as many arrests this year - a total of 45 so far - over last.

"My officers, the highway officers, while on the highway can spot a fraudulent plate paper plate five cars away," said Lt. Bell.

Once police were sure a temporary plate was phony, reused, expired, or repurposed - all of which is against the law - they would make an arrest.

"The red light cameras, speed cameras, not paying for the tolls they go through," said Chief Joseph Gulotta about the violations often made while using these tags.

Police say sometimes these plates are obtained through organized crime or other times it is someone who bought it online and are very embarrassed.

"They'll fess right up, 'I bought it online,'" said one officer.

"We saw those burglaries that led to cars that were in the driveway, so they pull up with fraudulent plates and the cars were clearly stolen," said Chief Gulotta.

In 45 minutes, three fake plates were detected - and three drivers arrested.

"It's grand larceny, burglaries, catalytic converter theft, and they also go even deeper to our shootings and our violence," added Chief Gulotta. "That's something we take very seriously."


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