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Mayor cracks down on ‘ghost vehicles,’ bans ‘camera blockers’

Amazon agrees to prevent shipments to NY

August 25, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Mayor Eric Adams and Amazon on Thursday took a new step in New York City’s crackdown on “ghost vehicles,” collaborating to further prohibit and prevent the sale of any product advertised on the e-commerce site as a “camera blocker” to anyone ordering such a product within New York state.

As part of the collaboration, Amazon will search for and restrict the sale of smokescreen license plate covers and tinted license plate covers to customers with a New York state address.

Amazon has also agreed to automatically display electronic notices stating that a given item cannot be shipped to New York locations — before one of these products can even be added to a customer’s online shopping cart.

In January 2022, the city enacted Local Law 22, prohibiting the sale of products designed to conceal or obscure vehicle license plates to New York City residents. This local law builds upon a provision of the State Vehicle and Traffic Law, which also prohibits the concealing or obscuring of license plates.

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Despite Local Law 22, companies have continued to sell these products to New York City residents who use them to purposefully break the law.

“Today, we are sending a clear and simple message: We will leave no stone unturned to keep New Yorkers safe on our streets,” said Adams. “Ghost cars are by design unsafe and untraceable, so in addition to finding and towing them, we’re going to stop them from appearing in the first place. Amazon has been a willing partner in the battle for street safety and we thank them for working with us to keep New York City streets safe.”

Obstructed license plates are often intended to defraud speed and red-light cameras throughout New York City — resulting in upticks in dangerous traffic violations and convincing drivers they can evade accountability.

In the first seven months of 2022, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) arrested over 2,700 vehicle operators driving with forged license plates. The NYPD has also towed nearly 2,000 vehicles parked in violation while displaying a covered, obstructed, or illegal paper plate.

Approximately 25 percent of the 5,500 vehicles with paper plates found to be in violation and towed by the NYPD’s Traffic Enforcement District last year were abandoned by their owners. Through June 2022, 562 of the 1,646 towed vehicles with paper plates were similarly not redeemed.

“Whether it’s to avoid paying tolls or an attempt to evade law enforcement, the sole purpose of these products is to skirt the law, and that’s unacceptable,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks III.”

“We are committed to working collaboratively with partners to improve public safety,” said New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda. “Plastic covers create ghost vehicles facilitating speeding, passing red lights, driving recklessly, and avoiding tolls. These actions present a clear danger to our families, those walking, and those driving.”

“As New York City faces a crisis of traffic violence, obscured license plates make our streets more dangerous by enabling unchecked dangerous driving,” said Danny Harris, executive director, Transportation Alternatives. “Our leaders must do everything in their power to keep people on our streets safe. That is why we worked so hard this year to implement 24/7 speed safety cameras, and we need this program to be as effective as possible.”

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