NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City law enforcement is cracking down on what they're calling "ghost cars."
Ghost cars are vehicles with illegal, fake, paper license plates.
The NYPD and New York City Sheriff's Office have seen a 300% increase in arrests for these plates and are vowing to tow and auction off vehicles caught with them.
As of this week, the NYPD has issued 16,448 tickets to drivers for using illegal or obstructed license plates, towed 1,700 vehicles, and seized 2,478 vehicles.
In addition, the Sheriff's Office has seized over 800 vehicles since July 2021, most of which had fictitious license plates from various states.
"We are towing ghost cars because we know the drivers of these cars are up to no good," Mayor Eric Adams said. "The law is coming after anyone who tries to make their car untraceable. We will not allow vehicles to be weaponized and our streets to be turned into a battlefield."
"The issue of ensuring that legitimate, legible, license plates remain a viable tool in our collective efforts to ensure safe streets demands our immediate attention, at every level," said Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell. "The urgency of this issue is reflected in the NYPD's ongoing efforts. We will defeat this public-safety threat. We will eradicate fake and obscured license plates that create what are essentially a class of untraceable, ghost-cars moving among us. And we need all our law enforcement and government partners pulling with us in this same direction."
"Under the leadership of Mayor Adams, we have created a robust ghost car enforcement initiative that addresses a host of public safety concerns, said Sheriff Anthony Miranda. "Collaborating with our partners in law enforcement, we seized over 800 vehicles most of which had fictitious license plates from various state jurisdictions. While inventorying these seized vehicles we have discovered 5 firearms, narcotics, fake identification, and dozens of fake license plates inside of these vehicles."
On June 25, 2022, a stolen Honda with an incorrect, expired South Carolina license plate evaded a car stop in Brooklyn and struck several people, fatally injuring a 67-year-old grandmother and critically injuring an 8-year-old boy.
Like untraceable firearms known as "ghost guns" that are wreaking a horrific tally of shooting victims, "ghost cars" - vehicles bearing illegal and counterfeit license plates - are fueling an epidemic of virtually untraceable cars that harm and kill pedestrians, bicyclists, and the most vulnerable - including the elderly, children, and other at-risk groups.
The NYPD is focusing on the work of patrol officers in all 77 precincts, across all neighborhoods, to crack down on obscured and illegal plates.
Helping to spearhead the crackdown on ghost cars is the 2022 Vehicle License Plates Working Group, an intelligence-driven effort that pulls in the coordinated work of the NYPD's patrol services, legal, and transportation bureaus along with the detective bureau's Auto Crime Unit for investigations and incorporates the expertise of several city and state agencies - including the Sheriff's Office.
The working group is focused on the goal of creating safe, navigable roadways for all New Yorkers by tackling the increasing problem of illegal and obscured registration plates.
Problematic license plates are often a nexus to criminality, police say. Vehicles outfitted with such plates are often used in violence and major crime, they added.