Suffolk County and state police recently issued nearly 1,400 summonses to drivers who allegedly obscured or altered their license plate characters, or did not have front plates.
The primary intent, Chief of Department Stuart Cameron said Friday, is to avoid detection by cameras that photograph cars going through red lights.
But obscured or altered characters, and missing plates, also make it more difficult for police to solve a range of crimes, he said.
Suffolk police issued 1,081 summonses in the first two weeks of this month, and State Police issued 314, Cameron said.
“I believe every one is deliberate, and I believe they’re all for nefarious purposes,” he said of the violators.
The two-week crackdown was a focused effort to combat the problem. Police continue to ticket drivers, Cameron said.
“I have seen a reduction in this offense and I believe the 2-week enforcement initiative had the intended effect and that it’s less prevalent of a violation,” he said.
Motorists have used a variety of techniques to avoid detection, including putting tinted plastic over their plates, painting new characters on plates and removing paint from characters, Cameron said.
Fines for a license plate violation range from $155 to $280, police said. Four of the summonses issued by Suffolk police were for misdemeanor charges for allegedly changing a number or letter on a plate or otherwise willfully altering the plate. That is punished with a fine of up to $300.
Police departments across Long Island have spent millions of dollars on automatic license-plate readers, which use high-speed cameras to photograph license plates.
There are more than 100 plate-reader cameras on the Island. They are mounted on police cars or on buildings, road signs, bridges or other fixed objects.