The New York City Sheriff’s office performed an operation in Brooklyn that saw the removal of “ghost cars” — illegal vehicles with expired paper license plates — and amNewYork Metro rode along for the dramatic procedure.
The NYPD aided in the operation within the confines of the 81st Precinct between Thursday night Friday morning, Sept. 1-2.
Authorities have been tackling the influx of automobiles fitted with paper plates in recent months, an issue that has been plaguing the city since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to NYC Sheriff Anthony Miranda, this illegal scourge not only has insurance implications, it also often goes hand-in-hand with other crimes from traffic violations to drug dealing and gun violence.
“Many of the paper plate vehicles used in crimes have been documented by the police department in shootings and different things in the communities as well as running red lights and accidents. So they’re just overall a danger to the community,” Sheriff Miranda told amNewYork Metro. “Illegal plates are something that were prevalent during the pandemic, when DMV and the other agencies were closed, they have provisions for this. Now that the DMV is open it just seems that people have learned to abuse the process. And then the criminal element has also learned how to capitalize on the fact that there are still thousands of these paper plates in the street.”
The Sheriff’s office set up a temporary base of operations inside the grounds of the Boys and Girls High School on Schenectady Avenue between Herkimer Street and Atlantic Avenue. From midnight, they set out from this location and scoured the surrounding streets for unauthorized cars, vans, and even minibuses.
Once found, the Sheriff’s office ran the plates to ensure the vehicle in question was, in fact, illicit and then the removal began.
A tow driver would use a wedge to pry the door slightly before using a thin piece of wire to pop it open, often setting off an alarm. Some locals staggered out into the night bleary-eyed, lit only by the yellow flashing lights to watch the procedure.
Sheriff Miranda told amNewYork Metro that the public was also instrumental in helping pinpoint the vehicles causing them grief. Not only that, but he also spoke positively regarding Mayor Eric Adams for helping to pool all resources which allowed the Sheriff’s office and the NYPD to work cohesively.
“We have a holistic approach toward fighting crime. We all have an opportunity to interact with each other and pull all our resources to solve the issue. This is about public safety, public safety is not one single agency’s problem, it is a community problem. So, their approach is tremendous because there’s never been this level of communication amongst the agencies. The sharing of resources, the sharing of intelligence, that really didn’t exist,” Sheriff Miranda said.
Once a vehicle was ready for removal, it was swiftly towed back to the base of operations. This tactic repeated throughout the night until after sunrise on Friday morning. However, the officers had to be cautious amid high-crime areas to ensure the safety of both themselves and the public.
Still, the operation went off without a hitch, leading to a staggering 45 problematic automobiles removed from the street.
At the Boys and Girls High School, search teams looked over the vehicles for contraband. As Miranda indicated at the start of the operation, these cars are often linked to other crimes and inside torch-touting officers found large amounts of drugs. Everything from unmarked bags of pills to exorbitant amounts of illegal prescription drugs and needles.
The Sheriff’s office is no stranger dealing with this. Due to their unique jurisdiction, they handle a large variety of long-term investigations, from animal cruelty and operations such as Ghost Cars to even more extensive procedures.
“This is just one of the many strategies that are being used to combat the illegal activities that are going on in our communities, and to combat the crime. And this is all collectively, to help everybody feel safer,” Sheriff Miranda said.