Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a new task force that will focus on snaring drivers who use phony or doctored license plates to dodge tolls, red light and speed cameras, and to flee crime scenes undetected.

A new task force will focus on snaring drivers who use phony or doctored license plates to dodge tolls, red light and speed cameras, and to flee crime scenes undetected, officials said Tuesday.

The announcement comes less than two years after law enforcement personnel announced in July 2022 a crackdown on "ghost cars," and fake and adulterated plates. The problem persists.

Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and leaders from several law enforcement and transportation agencies gathered Tuesday for a news conference at the RFK Bridge to announce the formation of the task force. Hochul dubbed the task force “Ghostbusters” because its mission is to bust so-called ghost vehicles.

“We’re going after the ghost vehicles because we’re sick and tired of people taking advantage. And everybody else feels like a sucker, because they’re paying their tolls like law-abiding citizens,” Hochul said.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has said toll evasion costs the agency about $50 million annually. The latest news conference came after Hochul held one last week to announce a new subway patrol plan with state personnel — Adams didn’t attend.

The task force comprises about 150 members representing several agencies, including the NYPD, MTA Bridge and Tunnel Officers, State Troopers, Port Authority Police, the New York City Sheriff’s Office, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. The different agencies will share intelligence and strategies, and coordinate on monthly sting operations at various tolling locations, officials said.

The task force conducted its first operation on Monday. A Port Authority representative said her agency alone issued 142 summonses, confiscated 30 vehicles or removed the plates from them, and made three arrests.

Adams said the task force will target cars with “fraudulent, defaced or nonexistent” plates. He held up examples of several bogus plates, and noted that some drivers keep “various sets of plates in their vehicles, and they are changing them through the night.”

The NYPD is also seeking to take on the phenomenon of law enforcement personnel obscuring or faking their plates on personal vehicles, the mayor said in response to a question.

An article last year on the news site Streetsblog found that officers are rarely caught when they obscure or fake their plates and when they are caught, rarely disciplined.

Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said an officer was fired last year for violating the toll and bridge rules. He added that units are sent out regularly to ensure compliance, and that any officer found with such a plate would be disciplined.

Asked the number of officers arrested, summonsed or disciplined, Maddrey said he didn’t immediately have the information. A follow-up email to his press office was returned Tuesday evening with instructions to file a freedom of information request, which can take months and sometimes longer than a year to get an answer. The email also contained a link to a disciplinary database that would require reviewing more than 1,600 individual cases involving nearly every type of serious officer misconduct.

At the news conference, officials described how scofflaws were caught.

Philip Rivera, NYPD chief of transportation, said during the sting operation on Monday officers stopped cars that used tape to alter letters and numbers, and heat guns or spray paint to cause a reflection that made it difficult for cameras to read plates.

In addition to using the plates to avoid tolls and tickets, Adams said drivers relied on ghost vehicles to flee the scenes of “very violent and dangerous crimes. You don’t know who they are. They disappear in the night.”

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