Suffolk County police conducted a sting operation from November to January into 11 state inspection stations that they suspected were illegally passing vehicles with darkly tinted windows, authorities said.
Operation Black Glass found that two of the 11 stations issued an inspection sticker to a decoy unmarked police vehicle that blocked 95 percent of light through its tinted windows, county Police Chief Stuart Cameron said.
The state requirement is that tinted windows can block only up to 30 percent of light, barring medical exceptions for the driver, officials said. Tinted windows became part of state vehicle inspections in 2017.
The two stations that illegally passed the decoy vehicle were Staria Auto in Selden and Baldwin Automotive on Montauk Highway in East Patchogue, authorities said. Neither could be reached for comment Tuesday. The other nine stations correctly refused to issue an inspection sticker for the decoy vehicle, police said.
The department referred the offending stations to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, which could impose penalties on their inspection licenses. The DMV did not say Tuesday if it had taken action.
Cameron said he was driving on the Long Island Expressway last year when he noticed that more vehicles than he had expected had darkly tinted windows.
“I’m wondering to myself, 'This law has been in effect for almost two years now. Why isn’t it having the desired effect?’ ” he said Tuesday.
He sought statistics on stations that had issued the most inspection stickers to cars that were ticketed later by police for having illegally tinted windows. Those 11 stations were then targeted in the sting, he said.
Cameron pointed out that the vehicle could have had legal windows at the time of the inspection and the owner had them illegally tinted later.
The chief said darkly tinted windows pose a threat to police officer safety because “anything can be happening behind those windows that you can’t see.”
“You can’t see if the operator is getting ready to shoot you,” he said. “You could roll it down and have a grandmother and grandfather looking at you, or you could roll it down and have a gun pointed at you.”
Police vehicles have tinted windows to protect officers' identities, especially during undercover operations.
Cameron said he may have the police department continue such sting operations.
“Those businesses that are licensed to operate have an obligation to follow state law so that our police officers are protected on the road,“ County Executive Steve Bellone said in a statement.
The number of summonses issued by Suffolk police for illegally tinted windows has increased since the 2017 law took effect. In 2015, officers issued 2,774 summonses, according to figures provided by the police department. The number rose to 3,893 summonses in 2016, then spiked to 5,997 in 2017 and 5,697 in 2018.