Mayor Eric Adams announces a crackdown on vehicles with illegal license plates. Springfield Gardens Auto Pound, Queens. Tuesday, July 05, 2022. Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

The NYPD will play ghostbusters on “ghost cars” as Mayor Eric Adams announced such vehicles will be towed and possibly auctioned off by the NYPD at a Tuesday press briefing.

There’s nothing supernatural about “ghost cars,” which refer to automobiles that are untraceable due to illegally replaced, temporary or forged license plates. As of this past Sunday, the NYPD has seized 2,478 vehicles with illegal or obstructed license plates, along with towing another 1,700 and handing out 16,448 tickets for similar offenses.

The advanced crackdown comes after a stolen Honda with an illegal license plate struck and killed 67-year-old Lynn Christopher and critically injured her 8-year-old grandson in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn last month.

“These ghost cars are often used in major crimes,” said Adams. “Of the 271 traffic deaths in 2021, 16 involved vehicles with temporary plates, nine of those plates were illegal.”

And “ghost cars” are often ghosted by their owners. Through last month, nearly a third of towed cars with illegal license plates were abandoned. As a result, many of them are auctioned off. While the term “ghost car” is newly coined and fashioned after similarly untraceable “ghost guns,” the issue is over a century old.

“This is nothing new,” said NYPD Chief of Transportation Kim Royster. “Drivers have been attempting to skirt New York laws since 1901. Yes, I did say 1901. That’s when automobiles were first required to be registered by the secretary of state.”

And it’s not the first time a New York City mayor has addressed the problem, with Bill de Blasio promising to get “ghost cars” off the street as recently as last year. The difference to the current mayor? Adams took some time to throw shade at his predecessors during the press conference.

“I think the sole thing that’s different from those who’ve talked about it before and those who are talking about it now is Eric Adams—I’m the mayor now.”

Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting:

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